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Posts from the ‘5 Divorce Questions for a Lawyer’ Category

5 Divorce Questions from Across Canada: Interview of Lawyer Marla S. Miller by Russell Alexander

alberta

5 Divorce Questions from Across Canada: Interview of Lawyer Marla S. Miller by Russell Alexander

5 Divorce Questions: Interview of Edmonton, Alberta Lawyer Marla S. Miller by Russell Alexander

This week we interviewed Edmonton, Alberta, lawyer Marla S. Miller. Marla S. Miller, Q.C. has been an integral part of the Collaborative Divorce movement in Edmonton, being one of the founding members of the Association of Collaborative Professionals (Edmonton) and spearheading the initial training in Edmonton in 2001 by bringing in the founder of Collaborative Divorce, Stu Webb. She continues her role with the Edmonton Association on an almost daily basis. She practices with Miller Boileau Family Law Group in Edmonton, Alberta.

Having been influenced early on in her legal career by the mediation training she received over 25 years ago, Marla gave up court as an option well before the advent of Collaboration as a formal process. As both a Collaborator and a Mediator, Marla is practical, intuitive and creative. She helps people going through marriage breakdown, relationship issues and parenting problems create their own property division, parenting plan, and financial and support agreements. While considering legal rights and obligations, Marla’s focus is on creating a safe environment to empower her clients to craft decisions best suited to their own needs and interests.

Russell Alexander: “How often do people ask you for advice or guidance about separation and divorce and in which jurisdictions do you practice in?”

Marla S. Miller: “I am in full time law practice in Edmonton, Alberta conducting Divorce Mediations as a Registered Family Mediator as well as being a Registered Collaborative Family Lawyer in the Collaborative Divorce process. Guiding people through their divorce in a respectful and creative way is my daily focus”.

Russell Alexander: “What are the biggest concerns people raise with you about separation and divorce?”

Marla S. Miller: “Although clients ask a lot of questions and bring a lot of concerns to me, underneath everyone has the same concern. “Will I be okay?” When relationships break down and communication is difficult, fear and mistrust sets in. I know that settlement is not possible until those fears are dealt with. The fears are about people not knowing what they are entitled to or obligated to. They are about not understanding fully what the consequences are of any decisions they might make, or of simply not making any decisions at all. If we can help clients to determine what is important to them and to their children, we have laid a roadmap to their way out of the fear and chaos that is inherent in a divorce”.

Russell Alexander: “What advice do you have for people looking for a family lawyer?”

Marla S. Miller: “All anyone can go on is referral, reputation and trust. Ask for a referral – from other lawyers, from trusted referrals sources and from your friends and colleagues who may have personal experience. Then, talk to the referred lawyer. Make sure that you feel comfortable with that lawyer and that you feel heard. You may not always agree but you must feel comfortable to share your concerns. Ask how the two of you would manage a situation where the lawyer might not agree with something you might want. Ultimately, and ironically, in a time when trust may be at an all-time low as far as your marriage or relationship, you will have to trust the lawyer you’ve selected”.

Russell Alexander: “What are the top 3 tips you have for people going through a divorce?”

Marla S. Miller:  “Short of a health crisis, going through a divorce is one of the worst things that can happen to you and your family, so:

1) Be gentle with yourself. Get a good counsellor or therapist to help you through the inevitable emotional roller coaster of grief and to ensure that you ask your lawyer for legally realistic results which meet your needs and interests;

2) Be careful about your support system. Surround yourself with those who will encourage you to live your best life and not get pulled down by the emotions of the moment; and

3) Think long term. Think of it like riding a bicycle. If you are only looking ahead a foot or two, your course will be bumpy and problematic and you may steer yourself in the wrong direction. If you look a block or two down the road, you will have a smoother ride to the long term destination you seek. So, ask yourself, what do I want to be able to say about how I conducted myself five years from now? Did my emotions cause unnecessary collateral damage to me, my children or my loved ones?”

Marla Miller

Russell Alexander: “What do you envision for the future of family law?”

Marla S. Miller: “Three things:

1) There will be continued growth of people finding their own resolution outside of the strict law and the court system. Mediation and Collaborative Divorce will continue to grow;

2) The distinction between how we treat people who have married and people who have cohabited outside of marriage will continue to narrow. Alberta may be lagging behind other provinces in this and may continue for some time, but we’ll likely catch up; and

3) Courts themselves will set up more programs to help people resolve matters before they get to full out trial”

5 Divorce Questions — Coast to Coast (Canadian Edition): Interview of Lawyer Terrance G. Sheppard by Russell Alexander

nova scotia

 

5 Divorce Questions: Interview of Nova Scotia Lawyer Terrance G. Sheppard by Russell Alexander

This week we interviewed Nova Scotia lawyer Terrance G. Sheppard. Terry’s experiences with issues relating to surrogacy, adoption, divorce, child support, parenting time and spousal support have taught him that no matter what the circumstance, people want to be treated with respect, be provided with insightful and practical guidance and trust that the one they are listening to is hearing them. Terry’s goal is to ensure that the family unit is treated with respect and understanding during a difficult time.

Russell Alexander: “How often do people ask you for advice or guidance about separation and divorce and in which jurisdictions do you practice in?”

Terrance G. Sheppard: “Every day of the week, I give advice and guidance about separation and divorce to new and existing clients. My Family Law practice is throughout the province of Nova Scotia. My Fertility Law practice, however, is throughout Canada, and indeed, global. Not many weeks go by that I do not get a call from someone asking about egg donation, surrogacy, parenting declarations in various maritime provinces, etc.”

Russell Alexander: “What are the biggest concerns people raise with you about separation and divorce?”

Terrance G. Sheppard: “The biggest concern people raise with me is always their children; for example, will they still be able to have meaningful relationship with their children after separation and divorce; will they have the financial resources to make sure the children are cared for, etc.”

Russell Alexander: “What advice do you have for people looking for a family lawyer?”

Terrance G. Sheppard: “My advice for people looking for a family law lawyer is to find one who practices predominantly in the area of family law. You may not necessarily need the high-priced divorce lawyer with decades of experience if, for example, your matter is fairly straightforward and most issues are agreed upon, but you always want someone who is experienced in this area of the law. Feel free to ask questions when interviewing potential family law lawyers. No family law lawyer worth their salt will balk at being asked questions like, how much of your practice is family law; have you done cases like mine before; how long have you been practicing in family law.”

Russell Alexander: “What are the top 3 tips you have for people going through a divorce?”

Terrance G. Sheppard:

1) Do not be shy about seeking help. Going through a separation or divorce is one of the most stressful things people have to face in their lives. This is the time to call in all those favors from friends and family. Talk to a good family law lawyer, of course, but also talk to a counselor if you need it, get advice from a good financial advisor, talk to your accountant, talk to your children’s teachers and daycare providers to see how the children are adjusting, etc.

2) When making any decisions involving your children, keep your eye on the long game. It is far too easy for people to focus on the short term when they are going through the crisis of a separation or divorce. For example, whether the child has that one extra overnight per week with you or the other parent may seem crucial now; however, when both parents are at that child’s wedding in 10 or 15 years, they may very well wonder why they spent so much time and money fighting over it.

3) Work with your lawyer. Speak candidly to your lawyer and formulate realistic goals and expectations as early as possible in the representation. Be organized, come to meetings prepared, and expect no less from your lawyer. Respond to your lawyer’s request in a timely manner. Your lawyer may, for example, ask you for documentation that seems onerous, but will greatly assist them in preparing your case and is probably required by the court in any event.

Russell Alexander: “What do you envision for the future of family law?”TS

Terrance G. Sheppard: “The future of family law is in the growing area of fertility law. Traditional concepts of custody, access, support, property, and even parenting itself, are being stretched when children are being born into families with three parents on the birth certificate, with known sperm donors wanting some involvement with their biological offspring, or when one piece of the property being divided on marriage breakdown is a frozen embryo or donated sperm.”

 

5 Divorce Questions from Across Canada: Interview of Lawyer David Paul by Russell Alexander

BC

5 Divorce Questions — Coast to Coast (Canadian Edition): Interview of British Columbia Lawyer David Paul by Russell Alexander

This week we interviewed Kamloops, BC lawyer David Paul. David A. Paul, Q.C., was born and raised in Kamloops, British Columbia. Mr. Paul graduated from the University of Victoria Law School in 1986 and was called to the British Columbia Bar in 1987. Since then, he has been in private practice in Kamloops.

Russell Alexander: “How often do people ask you for advice or guidance about separation and divorce and in which jurisdictions do you practice in?”

David Paul: “I have practiced in Kamloops British Columbia for my entire career. All of the lawyers in my firm practice almost exclusively in the area of family law. We also practice at all levels of court. Being a busy family law practice clients and potential clients seek our advice or guidance about separation and divorce every day.”

Russell Alexander: “What are the biggest concerns people raise with you about separation and divorce?”

David Paul: “Fears about the impact of the separation on their children including relocation concerns, concerns about losing contact or losing a sense of involvement.

Fears about money. From the point of view of the recipient spouse, one of the first questions often asked is “what can I expect”. From the point of view of the payor, the question often asked is “can I afford it”. Both sides also want to know whether they will have enough financial resources to maintain their former lifestyle.

Fears about process. Clients frequently ask questions like “will I have to go to court?”, “what can I expect if the matter does proceed to trial?”, “how much will this cost?”, and “are there other lesser expensive options?”

Russell Alexander: “What advice do you have for people looking for a family lawyer?”

David Paul: “Find a lawyer with experience and a positive reputation and someone you will feel comfortable working with. Keep in mind that you may be working with that lawyer for some time before the matter resolves. If your matter does end up in court the process can be expensive. Do not be afraid to ask about fees and how they are best spent.”

Russell Alexander: “What are the top 3 tips you have for people going through a divorce?”

David Paul:

1. Take a deep breath and attend to your emotional health. It will help you stay objective as you go through the process. As painful as the situation is, time heals.

2. Temper your expectations. Get advice about your rights, responsibilities, and the process and the options for all three.

3. Keep your horizons short until you can see the way clearly.

Russell Alexander: “What do you envision for the future of family law?”

David Paul: “Despite some popular views to the contrary, lawyers will continue to play a significant role in David P
family law matters. However, as the family justice system is increasingly finding ways to help families resolve conflict without resorting to court, there is good reason for lawyers to consider ADR training as part of their continuing legal education.”

5 Divorce Questions — Coast to Coast (Canadian Edition): Interview of Lawyer Jacqueline Boucher

NB

5 Divorce Questions — Coast to Coast (Canadian Edition): Interview of Lawyer Jacqueline Boucher 

This week we interviewed Saint John, New Brunswick lawyer Jacqueline Boucher. Jacqueline Boucher attended the Schulich School of Law at Dalhousie University and was called to the Nova Scotia Barristers Society in 2009. She transferred to the Law Society of New Brunswick in 2012. She practises law at Mosher Chedore in Saint John, New Brunswick, primarily in the area of family law.

Russell Alexander: “How often do people ask you for advice or guidance about separation and divorce and in which jurisdictions do you practice in?”

Jacqueline Boucher: “Myself and my colleagues at Mosher Chedore are consulted on a daily basis with respect to separation and divorce. My practice is almost entirely comprised of family law clients located in the Saint John region of New Brunswick, although we do practice in other judicial districts around the New Brunswick, including Moncton and Fredericton”.

Russell Alexander: “What are the biggest concerns people raise with you about separation and divorce?”

Jacqueline Boucher: “Children, money, and time. Generally, the people I consult with are very concerned about how to resolve their separation in the most cost-effective and expedited manner. The difficulty can lie when we have to explain to clients that these processes take time (particularly if custody of children is in issue) and may not be resolved overnight without significant compromise”.

Russell Alexander: “What advice do you have for people looking for a family lawyer?”

Jacqueline Boucher: “You should ensure that you are comfortable with your lawyer. Family law sometimes requires discussing very sensitive and emotional matters and you should ensure that your lawyer is someone you are comfortable being completely forthright and honest with”.

Russell Alexander: “What are the top 3 tips you have for people going through a divorce?”

Jacqueline Boucher:

1) Have legal advice from a qualified profession at an early stage. This does not necessarily mean go to Court right away nor retain a lawyer, but people should know what their rights and obligations are at an early stage. This helps manage expectations and, particularly if mediation or other informal means of resolution is being used in first instance, also ensures that both persons are bargaining from a knowledgeable position. Legal advice will outline where you may want to negotiate versus the areas you should not. Keep in mind that many people that have been through a separation or divorce may have very strong feelings about the way the law works but that they are not lawyers so any advice received about the law from non-lawyers should be taken with caution.

2) Be organized and provide documentation when asked. This will save a lot of headaches. At the initial meeting with a prospective client, I always ask that they bring in their last three years tax returns, notices of assessment, and a recent pay statement. Full and frank financial disclosure is a very important part of sorting out the financial issues related to marriage breakdown. This information should be provided quickly and easily when requested by your lawyer.

3) Seek therapeutic intervention if necessary. If you (or the children) are struggling with separation or divorce, seek the advice of a trust counsellor or even an impartial friend. Keep in mind that lawyers are not counsellors and, while we do our best to use interpersonal skills appropriately and try to be sensitive to our clients emotional needs, we are not mental health professionals. This is also important in managing expectations as it keeps clients focused on the legal matters as opposed to the emotional response to marriage breakdown.”

Russell Alexander: “What do you envision for the future of family law?”JB 2

Jacqueline Boucher: “This is a very difficult question to answer. There a lot of calls for an overhaul of the family justice system and something certainly needs to be done to make it easier for self-represented litigants to access the Courts while still maintain some procedural fairness and rules of evidence. I also think that lawyers play an important role in family justice as an understanding of legal rights and obligations are very important in managing people’s expectations. So, ensuring that everyone (regardless of income) has timely access to legal advice is important and I see this as an expansion of government services (i.e. legal aid or duty counsel). I envision more tools to try and “standardize” the law, such as the Child Support Guidelines and the Spousal Support Advisory Guidelines. This may include legislated or mandated use of parenting plans which are common in the United States. There are many pieces to “fixing” the puzzle that is family law and these would just be two of them”.

5 Divorce Questions — Coast to Coast (Canadian Edition): Interview of Quebec Lawyer Orna Hilberger

quebec-map

5 Divorce Questions — Coast to Coast (Canadian Edition): Interview of Quebec Lawyer Orna Hilberger 

This week we interview Westmount, Quebec lawyer Orna Hilberger. Ms. Hilberger has been practicing Family Law since 1986. She attended McGill University for both an undergraduate degree in Commerce and two Civil Law degrees and completed the Quebec Bar in 1986.

Russell Alexander: “How often do people ask you for advice or guidance about separation and divorce and in which jurisdictions do you practice in?”

Orna Hilberger: “I am constantly asked advice about separation and divorce since I have concentrated almost exclusively in this field for the past 29 years. I am only licensed to practice in the province of Quebec but certainly travel outside the jurisdiction of Montreal for the various courthouses.”

Russell Alexander: “What are the biggest concerns people raise with you about separation and divorce?”

Orna Hilberger: “The answer to this varies as to whether men or women are asking the question. Invariably, men are concerned about payments, whether it be short or long term alimony and concerns over property division. On the other hand, women seem to be more concerned about custody and access and secondarily about financial issues.”

Russell Alexander: “What advice do you have for people looking for a family lawyer?”

Orna Hilberger: “Do your homework. Ask other lawyers for references concerning family law lawyers and look online for cases they may have been involved with.”

Russell Alexander: “What are the top 3 tips you have for people going through a divorce?”

Orna Hilberger:

orna hilberger
1. Be patient and do not expect a divorce to happen overnight.

2. Ensure that any agreement will look after both your short and long term needs.

3. Ensure that you keep a level head because not every issue is a major one.

Russell Alexander: “What do you envision for the future of family law?”

Orna Hilberger: “I envision a collaborative field that urges the participants to make their own terms of settlement in that they have to live with the outcome.”

Selling the Matrimonial Home: Is $37,000 for Home-Staging and Prep-Costs Reasonable?

 staging

Selling the Matrimonial Home: Is $37,000 for Home-Staging and Prep-Costs Reasonable?

In a recent Ontario case the couple, both of whom were physicians, separated after a 31-year marriage. The wife remained in the matrimonial home while the parties prepared to divide their assets, which included a property in Italy, several automobiles, expensive jewellery, and several joint accounts.

As part of this division process, the home was scheduled to be sold on September 1st. However, when the husband’s friend visited in late August to retrieve certain items for him, he noticed that the wife had not prepared the home for the new occupants as she was obliged to do. In particular, the home was in disarray, there were still boxes everywhere, and more than 100 bottles of valuable wine – collectively worth about $200,000 – still remained on the premises.

As a result, the deal fell through for the September 1st closing. The wife also stalled subsequent efforts to sell it, by being difficult in connection with signing back various offers from the potential buyers. Eventually, the house did sell for a reduced price of $2.2 million, which represented a $250,000 shortfall from its true market value. (And this was achieved only after the husband agreed under some duress to sign a document committing to pay the wife $125,000, in order to compensate her for the shortfall in the selling price. This purported agreement was ultimately struck down).

Against this background, and in the context of dividing up the proceeds of the sale, the wife submitted her expenses in the form of a bill for almost $37,000. This included a home staging fee, and the cost to hire cleaning staff and assorted others to help with getting the home ready. It also encompassed the fees charged by various physicians whom she apparently hired to replace her at her medical practice while she was involved in preparing the home for sale.

The court was asked to rule on whether this $37,000 fee was reasonable.

The wife’s success was mixed: The court found that she was entitled to 50% of the expenses –but only for those items that were supported by invoices. She was not entitled to the costs of hiring replacement physicians to cover her absence at work, as she had failed to prove that her absences were directly and exclusively related to the time needed to prepare the home for sale. In fact, the court lamented that the wife had fallen far short of her obligation to provide either oral testimony from those people she claimed had provided services, or at the very least, documentary evidence in the form of receipts. Failing either of those, she should have provided the court with an explanation as to why this evidence was not available.

In the end, the wife was awarded only about $9,000 in total to cover her claimed expenses.

For the full text of the decision, see

Golda v. Syty-Golda, 2012 ONSC 6320 (Ont. S.C.J.)

At Russell Alexander, Family Lawyers our focus is exclusively family law, offering pre-separation legal advice and assisting clients with family related issues including: custody and access, separation agreements, child and spousal support, division of family property, paternity disputes, and enforcement of court orders. For more information, visit us at www.RussellAlexander.com.

5 Divorce Questions: Interview of Lawyer Aleksandra Czyzowska by Russell Alexander

aleksandra-czyzowska5 Divorce Questions: Interview of Lawyer Aleksandra Czyzowska by Russell Alexander 

This week we interview Ontario lawyer Aleksandra Czyzowska.  In  2008, Aleksandra graduated from the University of Ottawa with highest distinction, receiving a Bachelor of Social Sciences with a specialization in Criminology and a minor in Psychology. In 2011, she completed her law degree at the University of Ottawa and began her articles with the federal Department of Justice.

Russell Alexander:  “How often do people ask you for advice or guidance about separation and divorce and in which jurisdictions do you practice in?”

Aleksandra Czyzowska:  “Our firm practices exclusively in the area of family law. As a result, I am introduced to a number of people seeking guidance about separation and divorce on a weekly basis. In some cases, the person has just begun to contemplate the possibility of separation, and is being proactive by seeking information about their rights and obligations. In other cases, the person has already committed to the separation, or has been served with court documents to which he or she must reply.

I represent clients in various jurisdictions, including Durham Region, York Region, and the City of Kawartha Lakes.”

Russell Alexander: “What are the biggest concerns people raise with you about separation and divorce?”

Aleksandra Czyzowska: “People are often primarily concerned with ensuring that their separation/divorce has the least negative impact on their children, particularly when their children are young. They key to ensuring this happens is to shield children from the conflict, by ensuring that both parties remain respectful to one another through the separation process, particularly in front of the children.

Secondly, people are most concerned about the expense of hiring a lawyer. While there are some ways to reach a resolution without using a lawyer, a lawyer can be helpful to ensure that the person’s transition is smooth, and that their rights are protected.”

Russell Alexander: ” What advice do you have for people looking for lawyer?”

Aleksandra Czyzowska:  “Ask people you know for a referral. However, some people might want to seek legal advice prior to disclosing their potential separation to friends and family. In this case, the internet is a good starting point (ie: Google). Once you find a lawyer you might be interested in, book a consultation. At your consultation, ask the lawyer questions, and determine whether he or she would be a good fit for you. If you are not comfortable with that lawyer, do not hesitate to get a second opinion.”

Russell Alexander: “What are the top 3 tips you have for people going through a divorce?”

Aleksandra Czyzowska:  “Remain civil with one another.
Where there are children, put your children’s interests before your feelings for your ex-spouse.
Focus on your needs, but remain considerate to the needs of your spouse.”

Russell Alexander: “What do you envision for the future of family law?”

Aleksandra Czyzowska:  “As separation and divorce become more and more common for Canadian families, there is a shift in the traditional belief that divorce and separation are by definition acrimonious processes, and that one party will ultimately end up with the short end of the stick. Going into the future, I am hopeful that with the increasing number of divorcing parties, people will move away from this way of thinking, and focus on how to end their relationships while keeping all parties’ best interests in mind.”

5 Divorce Questions: Interview of Lawyer Marla Gilsig by Russell Alexander

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5 Divorce Questions: Interview of Lawyer Marla Gilsig by Russell Alexander

This week we interview Marla Gilsig graduated from University of Victoria Law School in 1978 and was called to the British Columbia Bar in 1979.

 Marla is  family lawyer, who practices in Vancouver, British Columbia.  Having taken training in Collaborative Law Practice and certified as a Family Law Mediator, Marla offers her clients alternatives to litigation and recognizes that, in appropriate cases, collaborative law or mediation can assist in resolving disputes in a timely and economical way. Marla is a member of the International Academy of Collaborative Professionals and Collaborative Divorce Vancouver which brings together family lawyers, mental health professionals and financial advisors to help separating couples reach a settlement.

Russell Alexander: “How often do people ask you for advice or guidance about separation and divorce and in which jurisdictions do you practice in?”

Marla Gilsig: “People contact me by phone and email 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, asking for legal advice about separation and divorce. I am licensed to practice law in gorgeous British Columbia by the Law Society of British Columbia and I am family law lawyer, an accredited family law mediator and trained collaborative lawyer.”

Russell Alexander: “What are the biggest concerns people raise with you about separation and divorce?”

Marla Gilsig:  “Fear that the separation and divorce will cause their children to become irreparably harmed emotionally and financially; their estranged spouse to seek revenge by liquidating, encumbering or damaging property or producing less income; both spouses to incur huge legal and court costs which will dissipate the family’s assets; and the private matters of the family will become part of a public record.”

Russell Alexander: “What advice do you have for people looking for lawyer?”

Marla Gilsig: “Consult a family lawyer to determine the type of family law legal services you need e.g. family law agreement, pre-separation advice, family law litigation, mediation, collaborative, or arbitration. Interview a few family lawyers in your community who have the desired training and experience to assess which lawyer is a good match for you as a family law client; ask to be introduced to the lawyer’s legal assistant or paralegal; and insist on a written retainer agreement.”

Russell Alexander: “What are the top 3 tips you have for people going through a divorce?”

Marla Gilsig: “(i) Keep it out of the court system and private unless there are severe power imbalances, financial disclosure issues or domestic violence. Deeply private matters deserve to be kept private.
(ii) Don’t characterize a divorce as fight with winners and losers. Think of divorce as a family matter with a legal element, not a lawsuit that happens to be about family. Think about how the execution of the divorce will affect the dynamic in the family. Make the goal, a successful conclusion to the end of the spousal relationship.
(iii) Assemble a professional team: family lawyers, divorce coaches, divorce financial planner, and child specialist. Always ask how much that option will cost my spouse and me in time, money and emotional fallout.”

Russell Alexander: “What do you envision for the future of family law?”

Marla Gilsig: “In British Columbia on March 18, 2013 we will have a new Family Law Act which makes resolution out of court the preferred method for resolving family disputes. I envision that the Act will lead professionals who work with families to achieve the goals of this Act which include:
• to encourage parties to a family law dispute to resolve the dispute through agreements and appropriate family dispute resolution before making an application to a court; and

• to encourage parents and guardians to resolve conflict other than through court intervention, and create parenting arrangements and arrangements respecting contact with a child that is in the best interests of each child.”

Next Friday we will be interviewing Ottawa Ontario lawyer Donna Neff of Neff Law Office.

We welcome your suggestions for new interview targets! If you know a divorce lawyer with great advice, please send her or him our way.