5 Divorce Questions: Interview of Lawyer Michele Allinotte by Russell Alexander
This week we interview Michele R.J. Allinotte who is a Cornwall Ontario lawyer and the founder of Allinotte Law Office Professional Corporation. Michele uses technology to make her practice more efficient and more environmentally friendly. Allinotte Law Office is a “less paper” office, using electronic documents and correspondence over printed paper when possible. Michele is also an enthusiastic user of social media and has been profiled in several publications for her social media usage and has spoken to several local groups about the topic of social media. She is proud to be currently or previously involved with a number of local organizations, including the Rotary Club of Cornwall, Women Entrepreneurs, Team Cornwall and the Cornwall Business Association. Michele has been a past speaker at the Solo and Small Firm Conference, Articling and Beyond 2010 and has also been profiled or published in a number of legal publications including the American Bar Association’s Law Practice Management Magazine, Law Pro Magazine and Precedent Magazine, which awarded her with a Precedent Setter Award in 2010.
Russell Alexander “How often do people ask you for advice or guidance about separation and divorce?”
Michele Allinotte “I haven’t taken any family law cases since 2003. But I still get at least one or two calls a week asking if I take family law matters.
My experience with separation and divorce in my practice since 2003 is mainly in dealing with property sales or transfers to one spouse alone post separation, or in changing wills and powers of attorney following a divorce or separation.”
Russell Alexander “What are the biggest concerns people raise with you about separation and divorce?”
Michele Allinotte “Well, when I’m getting the call it is usually to transfer the property to the sole spouse or to sell the property. So money is the biggest concern. Where the property is being transferred to one spouse, it may be in exchange for an equalization payment, and when the property is being sold, the division of the proceeds and costs is a concern. Sometimes one or both of the spouses is buying another house the same day. There might be three lawyers involved – me on the sale and another lawyer for each of the spouses (or more!). Everyone needs to be aware of how the money will flow, proper documents need to be signed, lawyers need to hold items in exchange for payment, and independent legal advice must be obtained, if necessary. It isn’t always a simple transaction when you layer the family law issues (and emotions) on top of it.”
Russell Alexander “What advice do you have for people looking for lawyer?”
Michele Allinotte “For any area of law, but especially for something as personal as family law, make sure you are comfortable with the person. I know lawyers can be intimidating and usually, when you need a lawyer, it is a stressful situation. Even a good thing like buying a house is stressful. So make sure you are comfortable with your lawyer and that you are able to get the information and explanations you need to make the best legal decisions.”
Russell Alexander “What are the top 3 tips you have for people going through a divorce?”
Michele Allinotte “I do get frequent calls about taking on family law cases. Often these calls are from people I know personally or from former or existing clients. So I tell them I don’t take on family cases but I refer them to two or three family law lawyers I trust. I also ask them if they want some names and numbers of counselors, either for themselves personally and/or for them and their partner together. Sometimes they take the information, sometimes they don’t. I tell them to take care of themselves and get legal advice before they make any decisions. That is really all I can do.”
Russell Alexander “What do you envision for the future of family law?”
Michele Allinotte “I’m not that well informed about recent happenings in the area, but I do know there are more and more people representing themselves. This becomes a problem for me when we do a property transfer because I need to make sure that the interests of both parties are protected, which can be hard because their interests are usually not the same and I cannot give them family law advice. I would hope that self-represented people who are able to reach an agreement would have more access to limited legal advice, so they can create and get advice on a written agreement. Without an agreement in writing, there is often very little I can do since most lenders will want an agreement that confirms what the spouse who is staying in the home is obliged to pay.”
Next Friday we will be interviewing Vancouver, British Columbia lawyer Marla Gilsig.
We welcome your suggestions for new interview targets! If you know a divorce lawyer with great advice, please send her or him our way.