The definition of “family” is continually evolving in British Columbia. That being the case, when a man and woman go though a separation, they should consider the implications their choices will have not only on their nuclear family but also on their extended family. If children are part of the family, the wishes of any living grandparents may need to be discussed during mediation. The concept of “grandparent’s rights” is currently under scrutiny in another province.
A New Democrat member of the Ontario Legislature has introduced a private member’s bill that seeks to ensure the courts in that province give grandparents the chance to be heard during custody disputes. It is estimated that some 75,000 grandparents in Ontario have been denied access to their grandchildren. This is not the first time this sort of legislation has been introduced in the province; six previous attempts have failed.
Experts on the subject believe that many grandparents can offer love and support to children who are experiencing the divorce of their parents. The stability they can provide may be beneficial to their grandchildren during difficult times. Unfortunately, many grandparents become pawns in the parents’ custody battles.
Family law in British Columbia allows for a grandparent to petition the court for access to grandchildren if denied by the primary caregiver. Former couples going through mediation, however, have the opportunity to provide for appropriate access right from the beginning — and without involving the courts. A representative from a family law firm may be able to assist men and women going through divorce to create places in their children’s lives for all those who care about them.
Source: CBC News Ottawa, “Grandparents push again for access to grandchildren in custody disputes“, Nov. 7, 2016
Today’s divorcing couples have options that were unavailable not so many years ago. It is a sign of changing times and changing attitudes that concepts such as collaborative law and mediation are becoming routine considerations in British Columbia as alternatives to unpleasant litigation. For anyone considering taking this type of approach to a marital separation, here are some of the advantages that may be experienced.
By working through their issues via a mediator instead of in court, men and women divorcing have more control over their individual destinies. No outsider understands a couple’s unique problems better than themselves, and a mediator can help guide a man and woman in finding their own solutions. Tailor-made solutions may be more difficult to come by in a court of law.
Working together may be especially beneficial for couples with children. It is quite likely that a mother and father who have parented together have a good sense of what is best for their children. With that in mind, they may be able to arrive at an agreement that takes the feelings of everyone involved into account.
It has been shown that agreements made outside the courtroom tend to last longer than court orders do. This is probably because neither side will be likely to force their own solution in a mediated divorce. This leads to happier families spending less time and money in court, and spending more time together.
Family law in British Columbia is constantly evolving to meet the changing needs of the people. Though a divorce is never an enjoyable process, some men and women may find comfort in knowing a less contentious path to a new life is available to them. The team of professionals at a law firm experienced with mediation can help make a civilized divorce a reality.
Divorce is rarely an easy option to choose. Once a couple, or an individual, has decided it is the best course, there are many more decisions that have to be made before the divorce is finalized. What form the divorce will take is one of those decisions: citizens of British Columbia have many paths they can follow, including traditional litigation. Mediation, however, is becoming a more popular choice for many, including some who probably never considered it.
To initiate a divorce in B.C., an application must be submitted to the provincial Supreme Court. Though this might seem like the first step toward a protracted legal battle, there is still the opportunity to opt for mediation. Ironically, both partners are not required to choose this path. In fact, one spouse can compel the other to attend mediation by serving him or her with a Notice to Mediate.
Once the spouse has been served with the Notice, he or she will be required to attend a mediation session, unless certain criteria are met. For example, he or she would not have to attend if the same issues had already been discussed in mediation. Also, the court may exempt the spouse if it would be impractical for him or her to attend, perhaps because they live a great distance away. It is also possible the mediator may decide mediation is not the appropriate method for the couple.
Mediation is a wonderful tool for couples who have chosen to end their marriage. For the right people, it may help avoid prolonged litigation and an emotional nightmare. The ability to enforce mediation may seem contradictory, but it may be a viable option in the right situation. Consulting with a family law attorney experienced with mediation in British Columbia might help make this alternative dispute resolution option work.
Source: familylaw.lss.ca, “Making mediation happen in a family law case in Supreme Court“, Accessed on Dec. 13, 2016
One of the most difficult aspects of a divorce in British Columbia may be the division of assets. And while determining the allocation of financial and real estate holdings can be complicated, sometimes it’s the little things that cause emotions to run high. There may be many shared possessions a couple accumulates during a life together which neither wants to give up for sentimental reasons. Even arrangements for beloved pets need to be made, and mediation offers a good environment for making these choices. One Canadian judge recently decided that even though pets feel like family, they are possessions in the eyes of the law.
In April of this year, a Saskatchewan couple chose to divorce after 16 years of marriage. The couple had no children, but they did own three dogs, and they went to court prepared to fight for custody over two of the pups, much in the same way parents would battle over custody of their children. The wife’s lawyers even went so far as to portray the husband as a “cat person” who should only be allowed visitation rights.
The judge rejected the request for a custody proceeding, citing many examples of how children differ from domestic animals. Though he acknowledged many owners treat their pets like family, pets are property and do not have familial rights. He also issued a warning to the couple that asking the courts to decide on the fate of their dogs might have unexpected consequences: should the court fail to reach a decision, the dogs could be ordered sold and the proceeds divided between the two parties.
In a divorce, all belongings need to be split up. Clearly, leaving it up to the courts to decide the fate of treasured items is inherently risky. Fortunately, British Columbia residents have the option to mediate their divorce, giving them the opportunity to make decisions with the help of neutral outsiders. By partnering with a caring representative of a family law firm, it may be possible to find solutions through mediation that please everyone involved.
Source: theguardian.com, “Judge rules pet dogs cannot be treated as children in Canada custody dispute“, Ashifa Kassam, Dec. 19, 2016
Most families look forward to the holidays, planning family events and enjoying time together. For families that have become divided through divorce or separation, however, holidays can be stressful and emotional times full of bitterness and resentment. It’s a sad reality for many British Columbia families. Perhaps it doesn’t have to be, however, and pre-planning during mediation or custody proceedings may be the solution.
Many divided families end up in heated arguments during the holidays as parents vie for time with their kids. Family law professionals say they see a spike in business just before and just after Christmas as families try and arrange holiday gatherings and winter vacations. Courtrooms are often extra busy beginning in late November as parents attempt to push through motions for additional or adjusted custody and visitation time.
When arguments over children get out of hand, it is the children who suffer the most. The courts strive to act in the best interests of the children, and so should parents. One way to avoid debates over holidays and vacations is to work these annual events into custody arrangements. More and more often, parents are now including Christmas, Hanukkah and other important holidays in their custody agreements. By settling matters in advance, there should be no need for debates when the time arrives.
Agreements are best made when both parties are discussing options, rather than fighting for control. Mediation is an excellent, non-confrontational, method of arriving at settlements for custody arrangements and other divorce or separation issues in British Columbia. By working with a caring and experienced family law firm, a person can hope to achieve an amicable and easily executed settlement.
Source: National Post, “Dreaming of a Christmas free from custody battles: Family lawyers say holiday season is their busiest time“, Ashely Csanady, Dec. 23,2016
Getting through a divorce with one’s financial situation still under control is a challenge faced by many British Columbia men and women. For those who are entering divorce proceedings, or see it in their future, an expert has assembled some top tips for staying solvent. Among them is trying mediation instead of litigation.
Indeed, making the choice to pursue a settlement rather than going to court can make a significant difference financially. Mediating a solution may be far less time consuming and require reduced expenditures versus a legal battle. And in preparation for mediation, properly understanding one’s current financial situation will help aim a person toward an appropriate settlement.
Part of the journey of financial self-discovery should also include checking one’s credit report. Despite their best efforts, many people discover unpleasant surprises in their credit report, including liens of which they were unaware. The recently divorced are also reminded to update their estate planning, such as wills and powers of attorney, to match their new reality; few people would want their ex-spouse as a beneficiary, or to have final say over their health care.
One of the most important tips offered is to be cognizant not only of one’s current expenditures, but also to give a thought for the future. For most people, a divorce will necessitate a change in spending and saving habits. The income flow a person once took for granted, and the nest egg one assumed would be waiting, may no longer be what they once were. Making a budget for today and a plan for tomorrow can ease the burden of reduced finances.
A divorce can be a challenging life event, but with proper preparation, it can be the catalyst for a new and improved life. Beginning with mediation may prepare the foundation for building a happier future. With the assistance of a caring British Columbia family law attorney, that future may be closer than it seems.
Source: Mark Avallone, “How To Succeed Financially During And After A Divorce“, Mark Avallone, Jan. 27, 2017
The potential benefits of this option may seem obvious, at first. The fact of the matter, however, is concealing assets or liabilities during divorce proceedings is not allowed in British Columbia, or anywhere in Canada. All of a person’s assets must be revealed for property division to be addressed fairly. This includes any cash, accounts or property a man or woman may have concealed from his or her spouse. In short, every financial gain or loss each spouse made during the marriage is marital property.
Not simply a matter of picking the moral high ground, there are potential consequences to hiding assets. A sworn financial statement is a part of every divorce, and it lists all assets and liabilities of both parties. Should an omission be discovered, a judge can be asked to make a ruling based on the new information. Odds are, the settlement will favour the honest party, and not the dishonest one.
A lot of tough decisions have to be made during a divorce, whether the process is contentious or harmonious. An easy decision, however, should be choosing transparency over deception. Another good decision might be to seek the services of an experienced and caring British Columbia family law firm for mediation, or another route to divorce.
Source: moneysense.ca, “I’m getting divorced. Do I need to disclose my secret bank account?“, Debbie Hartzman, Feb. 10, 2017
There is no doubt that a divorce takes an emotional toll on both spouses, regardless of their feelings about their marriage. While one may hope to minimize the personal strain, parents who end their marriage in British Columbia also need to be concerned with the welfare of their children. A divorce can be very traumatic for young ones, but by working together, perhaps through mediation, and following some simple guidelines, it may be possible to reduce the impact.
Children are highly sensitive to the emotions of those around them. Parents would do well to avoid fighting in front of them, as it can be very disturbing and upsetting. Parents should also avoid the temptation to blame the other spouse for the situation, or speak negatively about him or her to or around the children. Children are not emotionally equipped to handle information like this.
Except in rare cases, most children want both parents to be involved in their lives, even after a divorce. It is very important for parents to set aside their feelings for one another and focus on the children. This means working together to create a schedule of visitation that works for both parents, and then following it to the letter. Children thrive on routine, and take comfort knowing where they will be and when.
One of the best ways to have a civilized divorce is to try mediation. Mediation allows parents to work out a solution tailor made for their situation without any courtroom drama. The professionals at a British Columbia law firm familiar with alternative dispute resolution options may be able to help families stay on track as they negotiate this difficult time.
Source: helpguide.org, “Children and Divorce: Helping Kids Cope with Separation and Divorce“, Accessed on Feb. 26, 2017
Many people go into a divorce with bitter feelings, and that is entirely understandable. One spouse may feel animosity toward the other, or possibly anger and resentment. However, it may still be preferable to take a more civilized approach during the divorce than doing battle in court. Mediation allows both parties to work out their settlement issues in a non-confrontational setting. The following story provides an example — albeit an extreme one — of what malicious litigation can do to some people.
A man and woman in British Columbia divorced several years ago. The pair had two daughters, and the mother was awarded child support. Around that time, the man’s business began to fall apart, and he eventually went bankrupt. Although he tried to make support payments, they weren’t always enough, and while he begged the court to reduce the amount, his wife demanded he pay up, and she requested a $10,000 fine for contempt of court. She also accused him of assault — a crime for which he was arrested but of which he was acquitted.
According to his wife (he remarried in 2015), he was on the hook for $8,000 a month in support payments for his daughters by his ex-wife, and a son he had with an ex-fiancée. He had also paid about $330,000 in legal fees, spent time in jail for non-payment, was alienated from his children, had been locked out of his bank accounts, and was in danger of losing his driver’s licence and passport. Unable to cope any longer, he took his own life in March 2017.
Most family law cases do not go as badly as this one, but it illustrates what can happen when there is no dialogue during a divorce. A divorcing couple that chooses mediation in British Columbia has the opportunity to talk about their situations and can work alongside their legal representative to find solutions together. A lawyer who understands the hardships of divorce will work with his or her client every step of the way.
Source: National Post, “B.C. man pleads for family court reform in suicide note“, Christie Blatchford, March 28, 2017
In most cases, parents will continue to be connected through their children, and will need to see each other and raise children in harmony. Beginning with mediation is the perfect way to start. When parents create a parenting plan, they must make the best interests of the child their primary concern. The same is true if the issue goes to court; a judge will base his decision on the child’s best interests.
The term ‘best interests of the child’ refers to anything that protects the psychological, physical and emotional safety of the child, as well as the child’s well-being and security. Any agreement two parents make must consider these needs primarily; any benefits to the parents are incidental. Parents are encouraged to think about the child’s relationships with the people in their lives, and who has historically cared for the children. If there is any risk of exposure to family violence, whether direct or observed, this must also factor in to any agreement.
Although a divorce signals the beginning of a new period of independence for the adults, for the children, life should continue as close to normal as possible. By focusing on the child’s best interests, two parents should be able to create a plan that provides for the ongoing nurturing of their most precious gift. A person considering mediation may wish to contact a British Columbia family law firm with experience in that area.
Source: gov.bc.ca, “What does the law mean by ‘best interests of the child’?“, April 16, 2017