The Ontario Family Court system is designed to fairly address disputes between you and your former spouse or romantic partner. If you already have experience with the divorce or separation, you’ll know it’s often an emotionally-charged one. To make matters worse, it’s all set against the background of a complex justice system laden with strict rules, procedures and legal principles.
Navigating this system requires a certain fortitude. Not everyone is ideally suited to the “journey”. But – as with all aspects of life – having certain personality traits or at least some wise strategies can optimize your experience and make matters go as smoothly as possible.
Personality traits and strategies to enhance your court experience:
- Thorough preparation. If you’re the type who’s curious and likes to research things thoroughly, you’ll be well set up for your Family litigation. Conversely, if you don’t understand the purpose or impact of your various court proceedings, then you’ll likely be blindsided by the outcome – especially if it’s unfavourable. Good preparation involves being inquisitive about the process, and seeking advice from an experienced lawyer who can tell you what to expect.
- Rational decision-making. It’s vital to know and understand the basic law, your options, and the factors that should go into your decision-making. For instance, if you are a parent deciding on the best allocation of parenting time for your child, you’ll need to understand what the various options even are, both short- and long-term. Again, your lawyer is best-positioned to help you with this.
- Foreseeing the consequences of your decisions. Having good foresight is also a big plus. Part of evaluating your legal options will include anticipating the long-term repercussions. For example, if you are the support-seeking spouse in your divorce, your decision to actively forego some of your legal entitlements can put you at risk of financial hardship in the future.
- Discernment. If you’re a person who can readily distinguishing between relevant and irrelevant issues, it’s will be a major advantage. That’s because discernment is also a key part of the Family Court’s role, since it must focus on the pertinent legal and factual issues that determine your rights, and those of your former spouse or partner. Irrelevant matters and issues (such as your spouse’s past infidelity or certain minor parenting errors) must be ignored. If you are unable to distinguish between the two, you will not only waste your own time and that of the court, but you may also appear vindictive or ill-prepared.
- Knowing what you don’t know. We all like to think we are on top of things. But if you have half-baked, incorrect presumptions and beliefs about the law or court procedures, you are only doing yourself harm. One example is the (mistaken) belief that mothers are always favoured by courts in parenting time battles, even when it’s not in the child’s best interest. Labouring under these kinds of misapprehensions will only muddy and delay the resolution of your Family Law matter.
- Knowing when to delegate. Although you are legally entitled to represent yourself, a key hallmark of any successful litigation is identifying when to hand the job over to a lawyer who is experienced. Family Law is complex, and involves in-depth knowledge of both the substantive law and legal procedure. Knowing when to “hand over the reins” is critical.
We all know that the Ontario Family Court system is regimented and procedurally complex. Not everyone is cut out for handling it well. At the minimum, if you’re embroiled in litigation, at least start with a clear understanding and appreciation of the many elements at play. And be sure to get good legal advice. This ensures your interests and legal rights are optimally championed.