Scary Statistics!

Two weeks ago Statistics Canada released a Report with some scary statistics for divorcing and separating couples. While the report did mention an overall decline in divorces for the period from 2005 to 2008, what caught my eye was the fact that 25% of divorce files took 2 years, or more, to conclude, which is downright scary!

Of that 25% there are no doubt spouses, already relieved to be living separate and apart, where there is little motivation to pursue a divorce. There will also be those who decide, for financial and/or emotional reasons, to put the divorce on hold.

But what about everybody else? And more importantly, if you are separating, or separated, what can you do to avoid becoming enmeshed in divorce proceedings for 2 years or more? Here are some helpful tips.

Firstly, you need to understand the divorce process, and your legal rights. Let me begin by dispelling one of the most common myths I hear in my family law practice. Namely, obtaining a divorce is easy, all that you and your ex need to do is (typically) wait a year, and then file for divorce, or have a divorce service file the papers. Since you both agree to a divorce, it’s no problem.

Sorry, it doesn’t work that way. You and your ex need to address, and resolve, all outstanding legal matters, ie custody, support, division of assets, etc, before, a judge will grant a divorce. So, the sooner you start this process, the better, and don’t schedule any marriage dates with your new partner in the meantime.

Although as I mention this, I did meet a client last week, who said he had been divorced for several years, without having matters finally settled. This is extremely rare in my experience, and while I don’t know for sure, it suggests that the divorce service which filed his divorce papers may not have followed proper procedures. In any event because these matters were not settled when they should have been settled, any possible legal impact on this client’s legal rights and responsibilities will need to be re-assessed, resulting in more legal costs and expenses.

Secondly, I encourage you to explore any one of several alternatives to legal action, which, if successful, can drastically reduce divorce time, and cost. Personally, I believe mediation, or my favorite, collaborative divorce can work wonders, even in situations which appear irresolvable.

Lastly, and most importantly, is to remember that any legal proceeding is not the appropriate forum to punish your ex for past misbehavior. In other words, you need to try and keep your emotions, separate and apart, from your legal rights and responsibilities.

If you disregard this last bit of advice any realistic hope of a negotiated, or mediated, settlement will disappear, and you will ultimately leave your future fate in the hands of a judge. And any judge will not decide your legal issues on the basis of a personality contest.

There you have it. Three tips to prevent you from becoming just another scary statistic!

Kitchen Table Divorce

They say marriage is grand – sadly, divorce is twenty grand (or more).

But if you’re like most middle class taxpayers you don’t have twenty grand to spend on lawyers. So just what are your legal options?

After over 20 years of experience as a family lawyer, I recommend an approach, for all my clients, which I like to call the Kitchen Table Divorce Option. So what is it all about?

It’s all about learning the right ingredients to beat the high legal cost of divorce and separation by representing yourself, even if your spouse can afford his or her full time family lawyer. Knowing when to make use of legal advice, and legal alternatives ie mediation and collaborative divorce, is critical, and so is being properly prepared.

But is it really possible to represent yourself and survive? You bet! All you need to do is to ask one of my many clients.

So why the reference to the Kitchen Table? Because traditionally the kitchen is where you can find all the right tools and ingredients, while the kitchen table is where everything comes together to create a successful recipe, or in our case, your own self made divorce.

The Kitchen Table (or for that matter any other table) is also the place where I suggest the parties initially meet to discuss and attempt to resolve any differences. That’s, of course, only an option if there is not a history of abuse or violence.

Some helpfull tips to start. Firstly, create a checklist of items that you would like to discuss and be sure to exchange with your spouse beforehand, ( ask if there other items that your spouse would like to address). A very good idea before the meeting is to obtain some legal advice about your rights and responsibilities. The lawyer can also help with the checklist and explain common but often misunderstood legal expressions ie joint custody which can otherwise create huge problems.

Secondly, resist the urge to agree on any financial numbers ie the price to purchase your interest in the family home or for that matter any other value. That’s because your spouse will inevitably take the position (after you find out that you literally gave away the farm – before you got legal advice) that you are now breaking your “promise” to her. Believe me when I say this can also cause headaches.

Thirdly, resist the temptation to sign anything, before getting independent legal advice, even if it looks like a smokin deal!! If you ignore this advice, you may find that you are legally trapped into an arrangement which you can’t get out of!

Last words – in my future blogs I’ll share some of my other legal insight and tips to show you how to make kitchen table divorce work for you.