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

Written by Russell Alexander / (905) 655-6335

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.

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About the author

Russell Alexander

Russell Alexander is the Founder & Senior Partner of Russell Alexander Collaborative Family Lawyers.