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Posts from the ‘5 Divorce Questions’ 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

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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.”

5 Divorce Questions — Coast to Coast (Canadian Edition): Interview of Lawyer Harley Greenberg by Russell Alexander

MB-Canada-province

5 Divorce Questions — Coast to Coast (Canadian Edition):Interview of Lawyer Harley Greenberg by Russell Alexander

This week we interviewed Winnipeg, Manitoba lawyer Harley Greenberg.

Harley was called to the Bar in 1989 and practices with McRoberts Law Office LLP. Harley received his Bachelor of Science and Bachelor of Laws Degrees from the University of Manitoba and has appeared before all levels of court in Manitoba arguing many different matters. His practice continues to be general, with an emphasis on family law. He has extensive experience in family law, real estate and wills and estates.

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

Harley Greenberg: “I meet with client’s on a variety of topics. My main area of expertise is family law and I meet with between 7 and 10 people per week seeking guidance in this area. I practice in Winnipeg, Manitoba.”

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

Harley Greenberg: “By far the largest concerns people bring up with me is whether or not they are going to be able to keep their kids in the context of a dispute with their spouse.

The second largest concern people have is how their finances are going to be impacted by the separation, both in terms of how their assets will be impacted and also in terms of legal fees.”

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

Harley Greenberg: “My advice is that people should be reasonable in terms of their expectations and demands. If you are looking for a family lawyer who is going to promise you the moon and the stars, you are probably going to end up disappointed. Be sure to find a lawyer who has some experience practicing family law, I think hiring an experienced lawyer is the number one criteria for a client’s success. Regardless of who you hire, in Manitoba we have a Case Management system which is set up to give client’s a taste of how their case will progress right away. Every client gets a preview of how their case might progress at a Case Conference with a judge who acts like a mediator and this lets the client get a glimpse of how their lawyer is going to perform. Look for a lawyer who is going to help you understand what you can reasonably expect to get from the courts, which is not the same as people initially expect.”

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

Harley Greenberg:

1) Be prepared. Having organized paperwork will increase your chance of success and reduce your legal fees.

2) Be reasonable in terms of your expectations and listen to your lawyers advice.

3) Have candid discussions with your lawyer about the costs of legal fees and also about what you may end up owing to the other side right from the beginning.

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

Harley Greenberg: “I believe that the future will have a lessor role for lawyers as technically becomes more and more prevalent in the industry. Each lawyer will be able to handle more clients.

I envision a future with an ever increasing number of self-represented parties in the family courts as the cost of legal representation continues to increase. I hope that in order to combat these rising costs that there will be a greater number of sources available to help the lower-middle classes pay for legal representation. Right now there is a pilot program being run by the Manitoba Law Society which allows lawyers who are willing to charge a lower rate ($160/hr) to be paid directly by the law society to provide some assistance to low-mid income parties who do not qualify for legal aid. I envision a future in which this kind of program is expanded and available across Canada.”

Our 5 Questions Series Returns!

ON-Canada-province

5 Divorce Questions — Coast to Coast (Canadian Edition): Interview of Lawyer Nafisa Nazarali by Russell Alexander

Back by popular demand is our 5 questions series where we interview lawyers on various aspects of family law.  This year we hope to take our series nation-wide asking family lawyers and practitioners in every Province and Territory their thoughts on this area of law that affects so many of us.

This week we interviewed Brooklin, Ontario lawyer Nafisa Nazarali. Nafisa is an associate lawyer at Russell Alexander Family Lawyers who practice in all areas of family law, including divorce, custody, access, child support, spousal support, separation agreements, marriage contracts, cohabitation agreements and property issues.

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

Nafisa Nazarali: “As a family lawyer, people ask me for advice and guidance on a daily basis. There are numerous issues that can arise as a result of a breakdown in a relationship. I practice in the regional municipality of Durham, in the province of Ontario.”

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

Nafisa Nazarali: “Without a doubt the biggest concern for people is ensuring that their children are protected during the separation. In many divorces, parents worry that they will not be able to see their children or that their relationship with their children will change because of the separation.

Finances are of course a concern for many people, but when it comes to money people are usually able to strike a deal. It is a lot harder to negotiate and make compromises when it comes to children.”

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

Nafisa Nazarali: “It is very important to feel comfortable with the lawyer that you chose for your family law matter. Your relationship with your lawyer is built on trust. If you do not feel comfortable with your lawyer, you will not be able to discuss sensitive issues relating to the breakdown of your relationship.”

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

Nafisa Nazarali:

1) Be reasonable in your expectations of what your lawyer can and cannot do for you

2) Be organized. Your lawyer will require many documents from you and the more organized you are, the easier it will be to fill out the necessary documents

3) Be honest. The last thing that your lawyer wants is to find out an important detail from the opposing party.

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

Nafisa Nazarali: “I believe that alternative dispute resolution methods will become more common such as mediation and collaborative family law. The cost of legal representation in court continues to mount and it is becoming increasingly expensive for individuals to go to court. Most people are unaware of alternate dispute resolutions but as lawyers and their clients become more aware of these processes, they will become more popular in the future.”

5 Divorce Questions: Interview of Attorney Brian King by Russell Alexander

Brian-king

5 Divorce Questions: Interview of Attorney Brian King by Russell Alexander

This week we interview North Carolina attorney Brian King. Brian King is the senior partner at King Law Offices, and a North Carolina Certified Family Law Specialist. Brian has also served as a member of the North Carolina Child Support Council and has been elected as President of the Judicial District Bar. King Law Offices provides family law services in North and South Carolina.

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

Brian King: “Russell, thank you for the opportunity to discuss our practice with you. As a family law specialist, I meet with clients daily on family law matters. We have offices in North and South Carolina, and have a thriving family law practice in five offices, serving from Mecklenburg County to Buncombe County in North Carolina, all the way to Greenville, South Carolina and all places in between.”

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

Brian King: “Initially, clients are most concerned on the impact their separation will have on the children. Until the children’s schedule is resolved, it is hard for client’s to focus on the financial parts. Often, it is my position to protect client’s from taking this one concern and sacrificing the important remaining issues. I tend to direct my client’s to a budget for protecting themselves and their children from the often disastrous financial burdens of divorce. As a parent who has gone through divorce myself, I understand the fear and hurt of the process. I appreciate the emotional cycle that ending a marriage brings on client’s. We spend a lot of time up front on positioning for the steps facing my clients through the process.”

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

Brian King: “Selection of an attorney may be the most important decision for you to make after the choice of separation is made. Finding an attorney that will listen to your issue, and strive to understand your position is vital to rebuilding your new life. Once you find someone you can trust, you can start building a plan to put you and your family in position to move forward from a devastating situation.”

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

Brian King: “First, understand that your mental and emotional health must be taken care of before you can take care of others. Until you are in a position to clearly make decisions, you cannot possibly be the person to resolve your children’s issues. Second, understand that your attorney needs your full communication concerning your case. This means turning over all documents, but it also means explaining what you want from the divorce process. Finally, picture what you want your life to look like in five years. A decision made for immediate revenge or out of anger may not fit with the goal of brining long-term success in your life–and your children’s.”

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

Brian King:  “Our firm is excited to be on the forefront of several innovative areas of family law. We have a strong mediation representation program, eliminating the need for litigation in many of our cases. I am very interested in the development of collaborative law in our area, where the parties collaborate together to solve the issues of divorce in a non-adversarial program designed to maximize benefit to children and parties at a fraction of the cost of traditional litigation. The future is centered on helping parties progress through the process of divorce in a manner that reduces stress, costs and emotional scaring.”

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 Donna Neff by Russell Alexander

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5 Divorce Questions: Interview of Lawyer Donna Neff  by Russell Alexander

This week we interview Ottawa Ontario lawyer Donna Neff. Donna is a Certified Specialist in Estates and Trusts Law. Donna has gained personal experience regarding the issues that small business owners face. Although her clients include singles, couples, families, and seniors, Donna has a particular interest in individuals with a disability as she has experienced such needs within her own family.

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

Donna Neff: “Every week several times a week, I meet with people who want to have a Will and Powers of Attorney prepared. Questions about the effect of separation and divorce are regularly part of the conversation. Some of the most challenging situations are where the clients are a couple in a common law relationship or are in a second marriage and one or both of them have children. So many people assume that after a certain period of time or if they have a child together, they have the same rights as a married couple. Most people are surprised to learn that nothing could be further from the truth. For those in second relationships, the challenge is figuring how to make sure their spouse isn’t left financially destitute while ensuring that children from a prior relationship inherit as well.

I am a Certified Specialist in Estates and Trusts Law and practice in the west end of Ottawa, Ontario”

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

Donna Neff: “(a) They want to know if updating their Wills and Powers of Attorney is really necessary. Usually people are pretty strapped for cash at the time of a breakup. Paying to have their Wills and Powers of Attorney updated can be a financial challenge. However, not taking care of this can be disastrous. Even though a separation agreement may state that a former spouse has no right to the estate of their now deceased spouse, court cases have decided otherwise where the deceased spouse didn’t bother to update his Will.
(b) It is also important for separated spouses to know that even updating a Will may not be enough. All beneficiary designations should be changed immediately. The proper papers should be signed and filed with the institution where the asset is held or administered. This includes insurance (both group and private coverages), RRSPs, RRIFs, TFSAs, and so on.

(c) If you previously named your former spouse as your substitute decision-maker for personal care and you don’t update this document, do you really want your former spouse making medical treatment decisions for you especially if the breakup was somewhat acrimonious?”

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

Donna Neff: “(a) Do your research … is the lawyer you are thinking of hiring focused in the area of law that you need help with or are they a jack-of-all-trades? The law is complex and no one can be a master of all areas of law … there is simply too much to keep up with.
(b) Ask family and friends who they have used for family law matters and what they thought of the results they got. Also ask what the lawyer was like to work with. Did they communicate regularly and in a timely manner? Did they really listen to you and give advice and options rather than pushing you to choose one direction or another? Most people want a lawyer who sets out the options and an estimate of cost of each so that the client decides what is best with the lawyer’s guidance.
(c) Don’t make the mistake of focusing solely on cost. An experienced lawyer whose rates may be higher can end up saving you money in the long-term because they know what can go wrong and can help avoid situations that could lead to expensive litigation.”

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

Donna Neff: “(a) Update your Will and Powers of Attorney promptly. Don’t wait for the divorce (or separation) to be finalized. If you become ill in the midst of the divorce proceedings, do you really want your ex having any control? And if you don’t currently have a Will and Powers of Attorney, get these documents as quickly as possible.

(b) Update beneficiary designations on all insurance, RRSPs, RRIFs, TFSAs, and so on.

(c) Before you live with someone or get married, seriously consider having a cohab or prenup agreement in place first. And be sure to share any such agreements with the lawyer who drafts your Will and Powers of Attorney so that your estate planning documents reflect what you’ve agreed to.”

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

Donna Neff: “Collaborative family law will continue to grow … makes sense to have the parties involved in crafting their own resolution if at all possible.”