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?”
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”