Archive for the ‘ Uncategorized ’ Category

Unbundled!

 

What’s the deal with unbundled legal services?

 

Unbundled.

 

It’s not just a term used to describe cable tv and phone services. Nowadays it’s also a term used to describe the delivery of legal services, especially in my own area of legal expertise, family law.

 

Let me explain.

 

Traditionally family law lawyers retained by a party in a family law dispute assumed responsibility for everything until the matter was settled, either by agreement or court order.

 

This included responsibility for filing or defending legal proceedings, (called “being on the record”), sending and receiving documents and correspondence, to and from, other counsel, attending all court appearances etc.

 

Retaining counsel also meant being asked to provide a monetary retainer. An inconvenient, and not so insignificant lump sum, with no guarantee usually given that the retainer will be sufficient to settle matters, and often not.

 

And as the cost of legal services has continued to escalate, this traditional model of providing family law services has become simply unaffordable for any, but the wealthiest.

 

Which is the reason that many parties have no alternative but to represent themselves, sometimes referred to as self- represented litigants (SRL’s). But even SRL’s still need access to effective, and affordable legal advice and assistance to navigate an intimidating, and complex, family law system.

 

And also the reason and motivation to provide individuals with the option of using a different, “unbundled” model, to access my family law services. What I refer to as the “pay as you go model”, which can offer significant advantages.

 

These include not having to provide an up-front lump sum retainer since you will be representing yourself, and taking direct control of matters. You simply rent my time and support, as, and when, needed.

 

My range of services could include, helping you to understand your legal rights and obligations, answering questions, assisting you to commence, appear, or respond, to legal proceedings filed by your spouse or counsel, drafting documents, correspondence etc.

 

And as I always mention to anyone who chooses this option, the more effort, commitment, and work you assume, the less you’ll pay for my services. With the added bonus, if you don’t like what I do for you, you can terminate my services easily by not renting any more time!

 

Also, since I am not retained as your counsel any and all documents and correspondence will need to be sent to you rather than me, another legal expense you can avoid.

 

In addition, since you are representing yourself you have the right to deal directly with your spouse’s counsel, whose services are being subsidized by your spouse.

 

There’s also another potential indirect advantage to effectively representing yourself, if your spouse has retained counsel. Since your spouse, no doubt, dislikes the fact they are paying heftier lawyer bills than you, this fact alone can often encourage a sudden, and much more reasonable settlement strategy, on the part of your spouse and counsel.

 

So if you happen to be involved in a family law matter, and you’re concerned about legal costs, (and who isn’t), check out lawyers like myself who provide unbundled family law services.

 

Finally, just think how impressed your ex will be to know you’re taking control, while paying less!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Parenting Made Better?

 

Do more parents make better parents?

 

Hilary Clinton, yes that Hilary, said “it takes a village to raise a child”. And here in BC, under BC’s new Family Law Act, it means any number of the villagers can obtain the legal status of parent on the child’s birth certificate.

 

But as I recently talked about this subject on the Roy Green talk show on the Corus Radio Network on 980 am, with family lawyer barbara findlay, I’m not yet convinced it’s a good thing.

 

Here’s why.

 

To be registered as a child’s legal parent in BC all it takes is for the involved parties, prior to the child’s conception, to negotiate a written agreement regarding each “parents” role and responsibility in raising the child. As Barbara explained, under the law, there is really no upper limit to the number of parents a child can have.

 

But I don’t know how any child, (I’ll call her Suzie), actually benefits from having more so-called legal parents in her life? Or does this just make the parents feel better?

 

After all, there is no way to ensure that any of Suzie’s parents will actually perform according to their agreement. Simply adding a parent because you want them involved in the life of a child guarantees nothing. I would like to think that Suzie would receive the love and attention of many adults in her life without the need of classifying them as legal parents.

 

Just not sure because Suzie has four or more of her parents attending her parent teacher conference that she will feel better off, or just incredibly confused?

 

In addition, what happens when these parenting relationships, like any other, fail as they inevitably will? I foresee multiple parties commencing multiple legal proceedings to establish their parenting rights, with Suzie, in the middle.

 

Family courts in BC will then be forced to make decisions involving Suzie’s parenting, based solely on what is in Suzie’s best interests.

 

Seems to me the framers of BC’s Family Law Act should have taken more time to consider Suzie’s best interests before they changed it!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

New Family Laws!

 

When Share and Share Alike Isn’t Fair!

 

Since March of 2013 family law in BC has undergone some fairly radical changes which impact separating couples, especially with respect to the division of family property.

 

First and foremost is the fact that common law couples who separate are subject to the same property sharing regime of married couples, namely equal division of family property, with exceptions see below.

 

Secondly, there are specific provisions which exclude certain property from equal division. These include property acquired before the start of a relationship, or gifts or inheritances received by a spouse. However, while the property remains excluded from division, the other spouse remains entitled to a one half share of any appreciated value of such property.

 

However, in my experience with family clients, the key challenge in taking advantage of this provision is the absence of evidence, particularly for example calculating the historical value of a home, or investments, owned by one spouse before the start of the relationship. Without such evidence it becomes difficult to determine such values and frustrates attempts to negotiate a fair resolution based upon the law.

 

So here’s a tip. If you intend to commence living together or get married and you have property, say a home or investments, it makes excellent sense to have a written agreement which identifies the property and confirms the values. Obtaining and retaining copies of any statements or appraisals substantiating such values is also prudent.

 

If you don’t follow this simple but effective tip you may find that expression “share and share alike” not to your liking, except of course if you’re the spouse on the receiving end!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Congratulations, You’re Married!

You may be married and not even know it!

That’s because living common law, (ie. a relationship of 2 years or more), will get a lot simpler, (or more complicated), depending on your perspective beginning March 18, 2013.  That’s when the new Family Law Act becomes effective in British Columbia.  Family law as we know it, will never be the same again.

In the old days, (before March 18, 2013), establishing the property rights of couples who separated after living together for 2 years or more was complicated, especially if all of the property was in the name of only one of the parties.

It meant having to prove an action based in trust law that the other non-owning party made a contribution towards the property, entitling that party to an interest in the property.  Such family law trust actions were overly complicated, expensive to prove, with uncertain results.

Beginning March 18, 2013, the way that family property is divided will be the same whether you are living common law, or married.

Under the new Family Law Act, family property, (whether married or common-law), will include the division of all property owned by one or both parties at the time of separation.  Exceptions would include the value of property owned by a spouse prior to the relationship, or received via inheritance, in which case only the increase in value of such property would be divisible.

My advice, if you’ve been living common-law, or you’re approaching 2 years of cohabitation, it’s a good idea to talk with a family lawyer to find out where you stand.  You may discover, much to your surprise, you’re already married!

‘Twas the Night Before Christmas

 

With the holidays approaching, there is one sad reality which has become a Christmas tradition.  Namely, the flood of applications to courts by parents throughout the province, and assuredly the rest of the country, regarding Christmas access.  Undoubtedly, there are good reasons in certain situations to restrict or deny Christmas access to a parent, particularly, if the safety of the children is at risk.  However, there are undoubtedly more situations which are principally motivated by the parent’s animosity towards each other than for any other legitimate reason.

As a consequence, it is invariably the children caught in the middle of access battles between feuding parents who suffer the most.  I’m asking at this time of year, if this sounds like you and your spouse, that you put aside your personal feelings for one another, and think of your children.  Children need and deserve the care and attention of two loving parents.  Who knows, perhaps this co-operation will continue the rest of the year.  It’s certainly the most valuable and most loving gift your children will ever receive.

With apologies to the original author, I have penned the following alternative version of this Christmas classic.

‘Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the Courts,
Applications were piling, with time running short;

Frantic parents consumed in a flurry of faxes,
With lawyers and spouses all arguing Christmas access.

No stockings yet hung by the chimney with care,
Doubt children would be coming, no cheer in the air.

When out of Judges’ Chambers there arose such a clatter,
I rose from my chair, to check out the matter;
 
He was dressed in black silk, as he bounded the stairs,
And I knew when I saw him, his judgments were fair.

He surveyed all before him, and pronounced while he sat,
That children deserve access, it’s as simple as that;
Now is not the time to argue and fight,
Over which parent is more loving, more deserving, or right,

Lets continue this trend the rest of the year;
With children and parents sharing love that most dear.

And after such wisdom, the Judge sprang to his feet,
To return to his Chambers until next time we meet.

But I heard him exclaim as he turned out of sight,
“Merry Christmas to all, love your children tonight!”

Sticks and Stones

When words can do damage!

There’s an age old saying that goes something like “sticks and stones may break my bones, but names will never hurt me.”

But if you’re in the middle of a nasty separation or divorce, with bitterly contested custody issues at stake, then names, or for that matter, whatever you say to your ex can definitely come back to hurt you big time, and in the riskiest place of all, family court.

How can that be, you say?

I’m referring to a situation where your ex surreptitiously records your telephone conversation, without your knowledge or consent, and then attempts to have the audio recordings and transcript entered into evidence at a court proceeding to support their child custody claims.

You’re probably thinking, as I originally did, that recording your conversation without your knowledge or consent must be illegal in the first place, and as a result inadmissible.

Surprisingly not.  Years ago, not sure when, it was a criminal code offence to secretly record a conversation with someone and accordingly, courts refused to allow such conversations into evidence.

But that’s no longer the case.  Something I came to learn firsthand when preparing my client for trial, with the focus on unresolved custody and access related issues.  My client’s spouse had recently recorded conversations about the children with him, and was now seeking to have those recorded conversations entered into evidence at trial.

The only guidelines to the admissibility of such recordings is whether the recordings are relevant, and a technically accurate recording of the actual conversation.

What I find especially odious about this practice, apart from the outright deceptiveness, is the fact that such recorded conversations are totally self-serving attempts to entrap the unknown parent into saying things they may, under normal circumstances, never say about the other parent, or children.

On the other hand, such conversations enable the parent who is making the recording, to put themselves in the best possible light, as it relates to the children.

Something to think about next time you’re talking on the phone with your ex, and you’re asked to repeat what you’ve just said, only louder and clearer this time!

Sex With Your Ex

Can sex with your ex de-rail your divorce?

Having sex with your separated ex may have consequences that you didn’t anticipate.

According to one report I read last week, a New Brunswick judge rejected a couples’ separation on the basis that the couple had engaged in sex during the period of separation.

Apparently this was, despite the fact that the couple had agreed that it was “just sex.”  In other words, clearly there was no intention on the part of either party to “reconcile” and rescue their marriage.

Here in BC one question which is mandatory for lawyers to ask divorcing clients is whether there is any possibility of reconciliation.  Only if the answer is “no” is the divorce supposed to proceed.

Notwithstanding, I’m often asked by some of my clients, whether casual sex with their ex during the period of separation essentially restarts the required 1 year period of separation.  Until now, I’ve responded with a “no,” much to the relief of the client!

The New Brunswick case raises issues surrounding what it means to be separated, since for the majority of divorces, the parties rely on a one year period of separation, (ie. not living together as a man and wife, for a period of at least 1 year), before obtaining a divorce.

Frequent, or even not so frequent, sex with your ex could potentially be a factor in deciding whether you and your ex are actually separated or not, and if so, for how long.

On the other hand, if you’re having frequent sex with your ex, (SWB – separated with benefits), you just might want to consider reconciliation after all!

KitchenTableTalk

The results are in, and the feedback I’ve heard from the inaugural women’s only meeting of the Kitchen Table Divorce Support Group is WOW, with one of the most frequent comments being, why was this support not available sooner?

Here are just some of the other comments, and questions, expressed at last week’s meeting:

Several women expressed feelings of guilt, shame, and embarrassment because they had not yet taken any steps to initiate legal proceedings, even though they had been separated for some time from their spouse. Reasons for delay ranged from concerns related to legal costs, to emotional exhaustion.

Don’t punish yourself for the delay! Simply make an appointment for a legal consultation with myself, or another lawyer to review your specific legal circumstances. After the consultation, you can then decide what, (if any), steps need to be taken to protect your legal interests.

Just as importantly, if you too share such emotional hurt, you should try and obtain counseling support. Such counseling services may be available, (at little to no cost), from your, (or your spouse’s), EAP, Employment Assistance Program). All you need to do is contact the Human Resources Department to find out more. (Also, don’t forget that your children will also benefit from supportive counseling).

Several women also expressed grave reservation about the lack of legal progress in their family matter, or what they considered dismissive treatment at the hands of their own lawyer.

As a family lawyer myself, this is a criticism that I take very seriously. If you believe that your lawyer is not handling your matter properly, then you should arrange a meeting to express your concerns directly to him, or her. Be sure to prepare, by writing down all of your questions and concerns beforehand. You also have the option of obtaining a “second opinion” from another lawyer.

If, after the meeting, you still don’t feel as though you, and your counsel, are “on the same page,” then I suggest that you consider retaining someone else. I believe it’s absolutely essential that you and your lawyer have the “right chemistry.”

In addition, if you feel that you’ve been treated rudely, or disrespectfully, by your lawyer, it’s time to move on. After all, if you’re leaving an abusive relationship with your former spouse, entering into an abusive relationship with your own lawyer is the last thing you need!

Concern was also disclosed about the financial challenges to retain counsel.

I’m a firm believer that the traditional role of lawyer and client, must adapt to meet the financial challenges of separation and divorce.

One way is to find a lawyer, (such as me), who is prepared to “unbundle his, or her, services.” This simply means that the lawyer provides only such services as may be needed, from time to time, (ie. pay as you go). While this approach can drastically reduce your legal costs, to be most effective, you will also need to commit to helping yourself.

Hello, and Welcome!

Most women facing the unfamiliar legal intricacies, of separation and divorce, appreciate the need for effective legal advice and assistance. Yet, in my legal practice, I have found the need, and opportunity, for valuable emotional support, and encouragement, is frequently overlooked, or unavailable.

That’s why I’ve decided to start a Kitchen Table Divorce Support Group, specifically created for women either considering separation or divorce, or those experiencing those daunting challenges first hand. (In the future, I anticipate forming a similar, men’s only, support group.)

After all, what better way to find emotional support, and understanding, than in the company of other women, with shared life experiences, and stories?

Discovering that you’re not alone, that yes, you can, take steps to effectively represent yourself in court, and protect your interests, is an incredibly empowering experience. An experience which has the potential to positively impact the rest of your life! Just ask those clients of mine (some of whom I hope will be in attendance to share their stories), who have followed the Kitchen Table Divorce approach, and successfully represented themselves in court!

Uncovering your true potential and taking control of your life, by accessing all the “right ingredients”, is your recipe for success, and the solid foundation of Kitchen Table Divorce, (blog www. kitchentabledivorce.ca).

I anticipate inviting, from time to time, various professionals, (ie. counselors, etc), to address questions and issues, raised by the group. How often the group will meet, and other details, will be decided by the group.

The inaugural group meeting is scheduled for next Wednesday, March 10, 2010, from 7:00 pm to 8:15 pm at my office, located at #102 19610 64 Avenue in Langley. (For anyone unable to attend in person, I anticipate future arrangements to facilitate on-line attendance and participation.)

Please also feel free to invite any other women you think would benefit.

Because of limited seating, please RSVP by 5:00 pm Tuesday, March 9th.

Get ready to take your seat at the kitchen table!

Double Double Legal Trouble

Tips to impress your family court Judge, and improve your chance of sweet success.

Sure, upsetting the manager of your local Tim Horton’s, with your constant griping, can have you banned from ordering your usual, double double.  But hey, it’s not like there aren’t other coffee shops, (everywhere), to slake your sweet tooth, and caffeine addiction.

However, upsetting your family court judge, the dispenser of family court justice, can land you in a double-double world of legal trouble.  After all, there are no handy alternative outlets dispensing family law justice.

That’s why it’s a good idea not to upset your family court judge, should you, like many thousands of other Canadians, decide to represent yourself in family court.

So, to assist you in avoiding some of the most common pitfalls in, (and  improve your chance of sweet success), I have compiled a list of the top five (5) behaviors, guaranteed to have your family court judge considering having you banned for careless and reckless behavior.

Let’s start with Number 5:

Don’t show up to court on time. This is a particularly risky maneuver, since if you don’t, the court could dismiss your application, allow the other side to succeed on their application, or adjourn matters to another date, perhaps in front of the same judge. Don’t worry, he or she will remember, the next time you actually show up, (they write down such things).

It’s not the court’s responsibility to set your alarm clock, organize your work or social calendar, or behave like your mom. It’s also not a good idea, or excuse, to tell the judge that “you’re just too busy” to attend. He or she will not be amused, to put it mildly. After all, if you don’t feel your matter is important enough to arrive on time, why should the judge?

This takes us to Number 4:

Don’t show respect for the judicial process. This means such things as neglecting to remove your ball cap in court, chewing gum, or forgetting to stand up when the judge enters the courtroom, or simply acting as if you’re at a frat party with your friends.

Be warned, there is a reason that the judge sits above everyone else in the courtroom, and why everyone is expected to stand, when he, or she, enters the room, or when spoken to. It’s called respect for the tradition, and importance, of the judicial process. Showing disrespect will do nothing to advance your case, or impress the judge.

Number 3:

Argue with the other party, other lawyer, or spouse, frequently, and loudly, during court proceedings.

All comments should be directed to the judge, not a running argument with the other party, their lawyer or spouse. If you ignore this simple tip, you will not only irritate the judge; you will end up with less time, and opportunity, to present your own case to the court. Bad call.

Number 2:

Argue with the judge, anytime, including after, (or during), the judge’s decision.

This is one sure fire tactic guaranteed to upset the judge. They do not like being interrupted, argued with, or berated by you.  Remember they could have a spouse and/or teenagers of their own, so chances are, they already endure such attitude at home.

If you ignore this advice, you could find yourself cooling your heels in custody as a result of your impertinence. The only exception, to be used with great discretion, is at the end of a judge’s decision, to politely, request a clarification, or correction, (in those rare instances where a judge may have omitted to address one of the key issues).

Last, but certainly not least, Number 1:

Come to court unprepared, to represent yourself. Most judges (but not all) will cut an unrepresented party some “slack”, because all the papers may not have been prepared, or filed on time, etc. But there are some basic legal elements and principles, including the proper presentation of your evidence, which must be followed.

It’s your responsibility, not the judge’s, to be properly prepared for court. It’s a great help to meet with a lawyer (but don’t leave it to the day before trial), to discuss what evidence you need, and how it should be presented.

Such preparation is bound to impress the judge, because it demonstrates that you have taken the time, and effort, to properly understand the legal principles involved, in order to be successful. In other words you have taken the steps to help you achieve sweet success!

To those who ignore or neglect, any one of my five steps, welcome to the double-double world of legal trouble! You better take that to go!

The contents, opinions, and observations, contained in Scott Taylor’s Kitchen Table Divorce, are strictly intended for general information and entertainment purposes only, and are not intended to be relied upon, or to replace, legal advice. 

It is recommended you obtain legal advice from Mr. Taylor,(604-534-6361or info@underappeal.com), or another lawyer, with respect to your specific jurisdiction, and legal circumstances.