As readers of this column soon discover kitchentabledivorce.ca is all about empowering people to take control of their own family law issues. Or to put it differently, sitting down at a table  with your ex, and/or his lawyer, to attempt to resolve your dispute, almost always beats standing up in court, in front of a judge, to achieve the same end.

That’s because there are always two sides to every story, even though most family clients naturally find their own story the most compelling. In fact even after almost twenty years of representing family law clients I am still finding myself surprised with judicial decisions.

That’s why resolving the dispute between yourselves, at the kitchen table, or in fact any table, if possible, can allow you to control your destiny, and be far less costly, both emotionally and financially.

So here’s an important tip after you’ve arranged to obtain a legal consult with an experienced family lawyer. After all, a legal consultation can often be arranged for little or no charge, and can help you to focus on the critical legal principles, rather than being sidetracked by irrelevant, (as far as the court is concerned), emotional issues.

Make sure you bring to the consultation any legal papers you may have. Just this week I asked someone who was meeting with me for a consultation for a copy of the order, or agreement , she was hoping to vary. Unfortunately, she had forgotten to bring it, which meant it left me virtually guessing as to the kind of change she should be seeking, and even the level of court ie. Provincial or Supreme, that she should be filing it with. All of which meant the value of the consultation process was diminished.

So before you meet with a family lawyer collect your papers, and if you’re unsure what they mean, simply arrange them in order of dates, with the earliest first. This simple technique will enable you, and your lawyer, not only to understand how things started, but hopefully where things are going.

This basic, but critical information, will vastly increase the chance of your having an effective legal consultation, and with it, the power to accomplish your goals!


Can’t Get No Satisfaction

Three simple rules to help you get what you need.

Trust me, you don’t want to be receiving this bad news by mail from your spouse’s family lawyer.  Or worse yet, being tacked down and served with papers by a complete stranger.  Not that there’s any “good” way to receive notice from your spouse that the relationship is over.

While the news may, or may not, come as a surprise, or in fact be welcomed or not, it has a personal and emotional impact that cannot be overstated.  There’s also the sobering realization that the end of your relationship will trigger a multitude of legal consequences.

Whether you happen to be the party receiving, or sending, such news, I’ve devised three simple rules to help you through this stressful phase of your life.

Rule number one: remember you have options. 

Parties involved in the process of separation, or divorce, often believe that there is no other option than to go to court and litigate the issues.  Believe me when I say that court provides you, and your spouse, one of the most expensive, stressful, and least effective means, to resolve your differences.  It also involves relinquishing control of your fate, and that of any children, to a court.

So just what are your options?

First, if you, and your spouse, have not attempted counseling, now is the time to do so.  If that option is not available, you and your spouse can still discuss matters, and attempt to resolve your own differences, provided you obtain legal advice before signing anything.  You, and your spouse, can also enlist the support of a family law mediator to mediate a settlement.  Mediators however, do not provide legal advice, and you’ll still need to review any agreement reached through mediation with an experienced family lawyer.

If mediation is not an option, you can also enlist the services of a family lawyer to negotiate a settlement.  This process of negotiation could, for example, involve settlement meetings with you, and your spouse, and your respective lawyers.  I’ve found that such meetings can provide an excellent opportunity to resolve differences.  Again, if agreement can be reached, the terms can be incorporated into a Separation Agreement prepared by either your, or your spouse’s, lawyer.

Rule number two: remember you’re the boss.

This is a rule primarily directed at people who retain counsel to represent their interests.  It means that your lawyer works for you, you don’t work for your lawyer.  This also means however, that you have to take an active interest in your own legal matters.  If you feel that your lawyer is not keeping you informed, or worse yet, appears to have adopted a legal strategy that you disagree with, then it’s time to have a serious discussion with your lawyer.  If, after this discussion, you still don’t feel that you’re on the “same page” as your lawyer, then it’s time to look elsewhere for legal help.

Rule number three: if you’re a parent, think children first.

For any parents this is the most important rule of all.  Children need, and deserve, the parenting of two involved and loving parents.  Don’t allow any personal animosity between you, and your spouse, to negatively affect the best interests of your children. You may also consider retaining the services of a parenting co-ordinator to help you resolve any challenging parenting issues.

Will following these three simple rules guarantee that you’ll successfully get what you want?  Absolutely not, but at the very least, just like that popular vintage Rolling Stones refrain, you may just find that you, (and your children), get what you need.

And that, in my opinion, is the true definition of satisfaction.

The contents, opinions and observations contained in Scott Taylor’s Kitchen Table Divorce are strictly intended for general information and entertainment only, and not intended to be relied upon, or replace, legal advice.  It is recommended you obtain legal advice from a lawyer, with respect to your specific legal circumstances.