January 24, 2024
What to know for your first appointment with your lawyer.
There are a number of key questions for you here.
You may be feeling really nervous about talking to your lawyer.
Please try not to be! Your lawyer is there to help you. We try to help you to understand what the law is and how it applies to you.
Sadly, some of that news may not be what you want to hear. We often have to break the news of child support and dividing pensions which are often not what you want to hear (if you are the paying spouse!). Our job is to not tell you what you want to hear. It is to tell you what you need to know to be prepared for court and to (hopefully) negotiate your way out of court.
Here are the top things you should do to prepare for a first meeting with your lawyer:
1. You are coming to us because there’s been a separation of your relationship. Be prepared to tell us the main reasons for that separation.
That may seem odd when people know that divorce is “no-fault” in Canada. Gone are the days when you used to have to establish adultery with evidence and get on the stand and tell the Court all about it.
Courts do not do that to get a divorce any longer. They most often simply have a divorce based on “marriage breakdown”. However, why the relationship has ended is very important to tell your lawyer. It will help your lawyer guide you on how to negotiate and how to fill out the court documents.
If there has been domestic violence, you must tell us. Even if there has been no criminal charge. The laws have changed around domestic violence recently and it needs to be identified. Even if there was no domestic violence, we still need to know why the relationship ended. If one spouse has a gambling/drugs/alcohol addiction – that is important. Even if you feel it was you who did something to end the relationship, tell us. The more we know the better we can help you out.
2. Outline the relationship history.
It will be helpful to you, if you may be nervous, to write some of this out and have it on hand.
Lawyers need to know a lot of the background. When did you meet? When did you move in together? What were your employment histories (being both of you)? Did you move for a job? If you did, whose job was it and how did the other’s person’s job get impacted? Did you have children? Who did the child rearing? What is the current situation of the children?
For example, are you in the same home since you separated or in different homes and how has the schedule of parenting time been shared since you separated? As you can see, we do need a bit of detail as we cannot give you answers unless you give us your situation.
You may think it’s an easy question to call us up and ask if you can get week on/week off parenting. It does seem like an easy question. The problem for us is that we can’t answer it unless we know the history, so jot some of that down. You will note on our intake form we ask some of these questions. If you help your lawyer with information, it is easier for your lawyer to help you.
3. Be prepared to tell your financial situation.
We are often asked about money. It’s important to you.
That can be about child support, support for a spouse (it’s not called alimony in Canada, it’s called spousal support) and dividing assets. Write down some of the basics about that and make sure your intake form is complete on the money questions.
It is the same story as in the history of the relationship – the more we know the better we can help you. If you call up and want to know about child support, we will ask for your income, your spouse’s income, any special costs for the kids and how parenting time is shared.
All those things have to go into the answer. The answer is different if you pay for daycare and the other parent does not. If you pay for medications and the other parent does not, again it’s a different answer that just looking up a number on a chart. If you pay union dues, run your own business or pay for all of the dental bills for the kids, the answers are different. You need to also tell us about assets and debts. We cannot answer how your assets will be divided unless we know what they are.
4. What you hope for in the long term.
What your goals are. The things you are seeking at the end of this process are very important.
Our job is to tell you about the law. You will consider all of that and then assess the laws against what you really want as an outcome. If you really want something that is not the “law-box” answer, then make sure to tell us.
Your goals for that first meeting with your lawyer will be to help the lawyer understand what is important to you. Then, what you may want to negotiate to get to a solution that meets your needs is what the lawyer tells you.
Knowing your goals also allows us to get a bit creative in helping you come up with a settlement proposal that may meet the goals of the other parent as well as you. Our job is to make sure you know what the law is and how it applies to you. Your job is to tell us the information to give you the answers, and then to consider what your goals are and what you really need to reach a resolution. Maybe you get to that solution, maybe you do not, but at least you will have given it your best try.
We look forward to helping you. Remember, you only pay for the time you want. Please look at our services page.
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