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Posts from the ‘Collaborative Family Law’ Category

Family Law Now | Episode 4: Top 10 Things You Should Know About a Financial Professional



On this episode, Russell Alexander is joined by Carrie Heinzl to share insight into understanding financial documents, developing creative solutions, and compromising with family members - all while going through a divorce.

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Family Law Now | Episode 3: OCL Office of the Children’s Lawyer

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On this episode, hosted by Russell Alexander with special guest Jarret Johnston, a children's lawyer explains their role, lays out the process and clarifies common misconceptions. Tune in to Family Law Now to learn more.

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Family Law Now | Episode 2: Top 10 Things You Should Know About Collaborative Practice

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On this episode, hosted by Russell Alexander with special guest Jason Isenberg, two collaborative family lawyers discuss the process, resources, and the various benefits for clients who choose collaborative.

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Wednesday’s Video Clip: Enforceable Marriage Contracts

 

What makes a marriage contract enforceable?

• Ensure the contract is in accordance with the prevailing law,

• Financial disclosure from both parties,

• Disclosure of all assets,

• Disclosure of all debts,

• The contract should be a product of full and fair negotiation.

 

Answer provided by family lawyer, Lori Dubin.

At Russell Alexander, Family Lawyers our focus is exclusively family law, offering pre-separation legal advice and assisting clients with family related issues including: custody and access, separation agreements, child and spousal support, division of family property, paternity disputes, and enforcement of court orders.  For more information, visit us at RussellAlexander.com

Wednesday’s Video Clip: Litigation vs Collaborative Practice

Wednesday’s Video Clip: Litigation vs Collaborative Practice

What is the difference between a litigation file and a collaborative practice file?

Usually the clients find the result much more satisfactory from a cp file, as appose to having a result imposed upon them by the court in a litigation file.

What is litigation?

Litigation is a typical traditional court file. There are two lawyers involved. The parties usually take an adversarial position that involves positional bargaining. This usually involves a contested court proceeding. This results in a negotiated agreement.

What if the parties of a litigation file cannot come to an agreement?

If the parties cannot come to an agreement, the court imposes a result on both parties.

What is collaborative practice?

In a collaborative practice file, we focus on goals and interests of both parties. Again, both parties have lawyers. It is considered a respectful and peaceful process where communication should be appropriate at all times. The parties will have communication guidelines.

A collaborative practice file is likely to involve a full team. This often includes a neutral family professional and a neutral financial professional. Other professionals can also join the team as needed including business valuators and/or corporate or tax specialists.

Not only do the parties agree not to go to court, but the lawyers must agree that they’re not going to go to court; They also agree not to take advantage of each other’s mistakes.

An important part in the collaborative process is that there will be full and complete disclosure. Fairness is subjective. The goal is to come up with an acceptable result for both parties that satisfies goals and interests.

“Runaway Train: Using Collaborative Practice to Derail High Conflict Court Cases”

low angle train tracks leading to pink sunset

“Runaway Train: Using Collaborative Practice to Derail High Conflict Court Cases”

High conflict court cases that never seem to end.  We have all heard, experienced and lived them. How can we use collaborative practice (CP) to address and redress the problems of high conflict family court litigation? Is it possible? Why would anyone try?

Many families cannot see the light that is CP; and court litigation is all they know, all they have been exposed to or was the only option presented to them when they separated.

One of the basic tenets of CP is that both lawyers agree not to go to court. They are ‘all-in’ with respect to the process and if it fails or break down they contractually agree to step aside and let new (often litigation) lawyers take over.

Newly Separate Spouses, Court and CP

We almost always start every file by proposing the CP process.  We write very open ended, friendly informative letters encouraging our client’s spouse to consider CP and hire a collaboratively trained lawyer.  Sometimes the other spouse does not respond or decides to be self-represented (or spouse 2  – “S2”). In these circumstances a court proceeding is commenced and sometimes proceeds undefended.  Usually at the very last step of the court process S2 then decides to retain counsel and respond to the proceeding.  If S2’s new lawyer has CP training this is a great opportunity to stop the litigation train as it is leaving the station.

The parties have the option to withdraw from court proceedings and pursue CP.  Or the parties can amend the standard CP agreement to reflect that the matter is already in court and place the existing court proceeding on hold until CP is pursued. Case management Judges have shown to be very accommodating with this approach and are often happy to get the case off their docket.  The one advantage to this approach is that any final CP agreement can be incorporated into a court order quite easily by administrative motion (14B) with little time or expense.  In addition, the court can also easily grant the divorce order.

Existing Court files and CP

What issues do you need to consider when existing court files are converted CP?  The addition of neutrals is always good practice and we should encourage client to always consider the benefits of a full CP team.  Family neutrals are excellent at improving communication and addressing immediate and ongoing parenting issues.  Financial neutrals can save time and expense and add credibility to the process of financial disclosure.

The lawyers and the clients then have to consider what do with the existing litigation: withdrawal the court action, put the action on hold, agree not to go to court with their former litigation counsel, agree to go back to court with the same counsel if the CP process fails, or agree to go to court to deal with specifically defined issues such as third party disclosure, maintaining jurisdiction of the children and divorce for example. Depending on the option chosen, the CP agreement may need to be modified accordingly.

CP Files and Court

There are a number of questions that arise when court files convert to CP and when converted CP files end up back in litigation.  A carefully crafted CP agreement can address many of these issues in advance but there are often unforeseen perils and pitfalls.

Stopping the runaway train of litigation using CP needs to be done with caution.  The simple option is to withdrawal the proceeding, agree not to return to court and enter into a standard CP agreement.

Sometimes, however, when there is impasse on varied issues such as valuations, parenting times, school location or jurisdiction it can be helpful to have a case management judge provide guidance to the parties using a modified hybrid CP approach.

A hybrid approach involves modifying the CP agreement to permit the parties to revisit case management for issue specific impasses, such as: disclosure, valuations, third party participation (shareholders or directors for example), schooling, time sharing and parenting issues. The CP agreement can also specify what information and disclosure could be used in later court proceedings if necessary.

Sections of the standard CP agreement that need to be addressed and possibly modified when stopping the train of runaway litigation include:

  • Agreement not to go to court
  • Agreement not to use information acquired in the CP process in court proceedings
  • Agreement to choose new lawyer
  • Notice provisions and waiting periods
  • And more

Summary

Purists will argue that modifying CP agreements and converting court actions or taking a hybrid approach to CP files (or small “c” collaboration) is not true to the cause and runs contrary to the principles of collaborative practice. However, there are many families caught up in the frenzy of court litigation and the system is being strained by the increasing number of family court matters and the increase in self represented litigants. Perhaps we can use CP creatively to put the brakes on or even stop the runaway train of family court litigation and help ease an overburdened justice system and find closure for families caught up in the disconnect of litigation.

At Russell Alexander Collaborative Family Lawyers our focus is exclusively family law, offering pre-separation legal advice and assisting clients with family related issues including: custody and access, separation agreements, child and spousal support, division of family property, paternity disputes, and enforcement of court orders.  For more information, visit us at RussellAlexander.com

Lori Dubin joins the team at Russell Alexander Collaborative Family Lawyers

lawyer portrait

Lori Dubin is now an associate lawyer at Russell Alexander Collaborative Family Lawyers. She is recognized for her client-centered approach and efforts to provide practical and efficient advice in order to achieve the best possible results. She has extensive experience in resolving high conflict cases and successfully settles most of her cases prior to trial.

Lori has practiced law for over 15 years. Prior to working in family law, Lori had 11 years of experience as a criminal trial lawyer with a focus on crimes arising out of domestic relationships. During her academic career, Lori was the recipient of several scholarships based on her academic achievement at York University. She achieved magna cum laude in her final year of her Honours Bachelor of Arts degree program in Psychology and Mass Communications.

Lori studied for her LLB at Osgoode Hall Law School, graduated in 2003 and was called to the bar after a year of Articling for a prominent Toronto firm. She’s trained new lawyers at the Law Society of Ontario’s Law Practice Program, acted as an articling principle, adjunct professor at various institutions, and commentator on Court TV Canada. Lori is an active member of the Toronto Lawyers Association and the Toronto Family Law Association. She has served her community on numerous Legal Aid Panels and Pro Bono assignments.

Aside from working, Lori has a very active family and social life. She is a fitness enthusiast and loves dogs, especially her own toy poodle.

Welcome to the team, Lori!

 

 

The Bezos fortune gets divided in a private divorce agreement and Amazon doesn’t miss a beat

The Bezos fortune gets divided in a private divorce agreement and Amazon doesn’t miss a beat

MacKenzie Bezos announced earlier today in a tweet that she and, now ex-husband, Jeff Bezos, have settled their financial affairs in a private divorce agreement. Though full details of the Agreement are not publicly available, MacKenzie declared she was “happy” to sign over 75% of the couple’s jointly owned stock in Amazon as well as voting control of her shares and her interests in The Washington Post and the Blue Origin aerospace company.

Following the news of the Bezos family settlement, Amazon’s stock price reportedly dropped by a mere 0.4%. The Bezos’ settlement out of court played a significant role in stabilizing the effect their separation would have on Amazon’s viability, and stock price. Consider the contrary, for a moment—had the Bezos’ litigated their family law dispute, personal financial details would have been made public record, and the very fate of Amazon may have been at the discretion of a family court judge—which could have resulted in an outcome felt around the world.

The success of the Bezos family settlement illustrates key benefits of resolving legal issues out of court: privacy, creativity and a controlled impact on the family business. These same benefits can be realized by family business owners who choose the collaborative process. Collaborative clients are empowered to privately resolve legal issues using creative solutions like share transfers, family trusts and delayed equalization, to name a few, to ensure an orderly transition, preserving the family business, and family legacy for generations.

We have published several other posts on the very topic of how the collaborative process can help family run businesses survive and thrive after divorce. To learn more, click here.

At Russell Alexander, Family Lawyers our focus is exclusively family law, offering pre-separation legal advice and assisting clients with family related issues including: custody and access, separation agreements, child and spousal support, division of family property, paternity disputes, and enforcement of court orders. For more information, visit us at RussellAlexander.com.

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