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?”
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.”
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”.