September 28, 2019

Good Advice – Get what you need from a lawyer

How to get the information you need from a family lawyer in your Separation

How do I help my case?

Check in with a lawyer and get legal advice specific to your situation.

You can Google search all you like, however the probability of you finding a case out there exactly the same as yours is zero. No one else is you. No one else has the exact same set of circumstances. Your spouse, your kids, the jobs you have, the concerns you have. There are similar, but not exact, so get some legal help to directed to you.

Before you take any significant step, such as starting your court case or arguing a Motion before a judge, check in for some legal advice on how you should do that. That advice can make you much more productive in what you do and increase the likelihood that the judge will understand clearly what you are asking for in law and why. Generally, the best thing you can do to help your case is to be organized and informed in advance. You also want to reduce the risks that you may have to pay some of your spouse’s lawyer’s fees because you didn’t know the law and did something wrong.

In some other areas of life, you can do something and then beg for forgiveness. The old adage of “it’s better to ask for forgiveness than permission”. The maxim does not apply to the law or courts. Try that one out on the police officer the next time you are doing 110 km an hour in a 70 zone. Law and judges can be very unforgiving.

Keep records of your financial information. Records as of your separation date and currently and make sure you keep those records organized. When asking for legal help, give the organized information to the lawyer to help them answer your questions and advise you. If you give them a shoe box stuffed with receipts, bills and statements, you can expect a large invoice from them before you get going on the advice part. Help yourself by making their job straight forward.

Part of keeping your financial records organized is also keeping track of your monthly budget. Keeping records of your expenses is helpful to a judge to know your budget and to any lawyer helping you understand things by allowing them to be clear with you on the child and spousal support issues.

If you have young children and the parenting plan is being disputed, then keep a calendar of the time you have been parenting and your former spouse has been parenting since you separated. This will be helpful to a judge and to any lawyer giving you advice on the issues of parenting and custody.

Do I have to have a lawyer?

No, you do not.

May people in the court system today do not. People even go to trial without a lawyer. It can be over 70% of people who do not have a lawyer depending upon which part of Ontario you are in. However, statistics show that you will be more successful in court if you either have a lawyer or you get legal advice as you go through the court system. It is not helpful to your to go to court because you believe you are right about something, to be told by the judge that you are not right, and even worse – that you now have to pay your former spouse’s legal fees because of that. Just because your spouse had an affair and you feel morally right in saying they do not get support, or half the house or whatever the issue is – the law says otherwise. Forewarned is forearmed. Know what the law is before you get into court. Surprises can be great if it’s your birthday; surprises in court, not so. The better idea if you cannot afford a full-service lawyer is to get advice that you can afford to try and prevent those really nasty surprises.

Can’t we both use the same lawyer?

The Ontario Law Society says no. Lawyers are required to live under the Rules and Regulations of the Law Society. If a lawyer was acting for two people in a separation or divorce situation, they would be in serious trouble with the law of the Law Society. So why can one lawyer act for a couple when they buy a house or make wills? Good question. Lawyers can act for a couple when they are not in a conflict situation and they give joint (the same) instructions to the lawyer. We simply cannot do that when it’s a separation. No matter how much you may say you both agree on an issue, the rules simply do not allow lawyers to do that.

You can have another option to use one person to reach a resolution, and that is by mediation. You can both go and see a mediator who happens to also be a lawyer. A very useful tool to help settle cases. We highly recommend mediation and the collaborative process.

I separated before, reconciled, and my spouse’s lawyer was great. Can I hire her (him) now?

No. Once again, the Law Society of Ontario prohibits that . It’s called a conflict of interest. The lawyer is not allowed to switch sides as they know information about your spouse that ethically puts them “off-side”. Even if your spouse did not fully retain a lawyer in your first separation, but just went to see that person on a consult, if you then called the same lawyer, the lawyer would tell you they can’t represent you too. That means for us, even if we have a 15 minute telephone call with your spouse and they don’t hire us to do anything else, they have removed us as being able to help you. Sorry!

If I need advice, is there anything else I can do to help keep my legal costs down?

Yes, be really organized in your documents for court. If you are already in court and need help in that process, make sure you keep your copy of the court record (called the Continuing Record) up to date. If you give a lawyer a mess of all your papers, once again, you will cause them to spend time organizing what is going on, which means you will pay more money. Lawyers charge on time used, so the less time they need to spend getting up to speed on what your situation is, the more time will be on giving you advice.

Another helpful thing is to prepare a typed summary of the basics of your situation. Quite often lawyers will ask you to fill out a form with your name, contact details, employer, etc. That is necessary basic information. The helpful part is the summary of the background of your situation. It’s one thing to say “we are having a child support argument”. That doesn’t help us a whole lot. It’s another thing to say “we’re having a child support argument because I’m self-employed and my spouse says I have a whole lot more income than I really do”. That gives us a good place to start to help you out.

The more you make your situation clear to us, with all the details that hit on the areas you are in dispute over, the better able we are to target the information you need. Our ultimate goal is to help you get through this.


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