Is it a good idea to bring a friend to a lawyer’s appointment?

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Supports in family law

A trusted confidante can be helpful in lots of ways

Sometimes, a client going through a separation or divorce will ask me – usually with some trepidation – if they can bring a friend or family member to a meeting. Though we’re often taught that lawyer meetings should be ‘private’, the truth is that having a second set of ears in the room, or a calming presence beside you, can be a great help in what is often a painful situation.

Separation and divorce need support systems

In almost every situation, people going through a separation or divorce need a number of supports to help them get through what is a stressful process. Financial strains can be acute; childcare and custody arrangements can be logistically challenging even when both parents are getting along reasonably well; and there are often residential, healthcare or employment-related issues that need to be sorted out. All of this can mean that both soon-to-be-ex-partners are navigating extended periods of high stress and emotional strain.

Friends, parents, family members – all of these can help to provide the additional support needed to get through the separation and divorce. Bringing one of the members of your support team to a meeting with your lawyer can be comforting – and a reminder that you don’t need to go through the process all alone.

What about confidentiality and lawyer-client privilege?

When clients bring a friend or family member with them to appointments, I explain the following. The solicitor-client relationship is between the client and the lawyer, so anything said within that relationship is privileged. However, privilege may be lost when a client brings the support to an appointment who obviously overhears and may be involved in the discussion between the client and the lawyer. The lawyer cannot ensure confidentiality in that case and privilege may be waived. At some point I may clarity the rules and allow an opportunity to speak with me one-on-one.

A rare, but more significant and difficult problem, is when the accompanying person gets over-involved in the meeting. Asking an unasked question or explaining in different words so the client understands what a lawyer says are real upsides to bringing somebody along. But potentially devastating downsides include dominating the conversation, trying to instruct or direct the lawyer, and interrupting the flow of discussion for the relevant points in raising questions of a personal concern.

For example, parents may accompany an adult child in the course of a family breakdown. Of course most parents want the best for their child – but if they become too emotionally invested in the process, or angry at the ex, they can be disruptive to the meeting. I have, on the rare occasions when this has occurred, asked the parent to wait outside for the remainder of the meeting. 

Solicitor-client relationships are like other intimate relationships

They involve the discussion of personal and potentially embarrassing details, personal finances, the admission of significant errors of judgment or mistakes. Strategy and tactics, personalities and court rules, juggling emotional, financial and logistical family problems are all in a day’s work for a family law lawyer. Attending with a loved one to help means to allow that solicitor-client relationship to thrive with support, be it emotional, financial or logistical. Ask the loved one and the lawyer how you can be helpful and stepped back when it appears the helpfulness is waning.

Good advice: Approach a co-parent as you would a co-worker

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It’s helpful if you can take emotions out of the process (as much as possible)

The other day I came across this piece on Worthy.com, and it’s stuck with me. The core of the piece is that when it comes to custody and co-parenting arrangements between former spouses, the more you can behave as though your ex is a co-worker with whom you need to accomplish specific tasks rather than someone with whom you have a complicated, non-professional past, the better the parenting thing will go.

Not a particularly complex idea – in theory. I recognize it’s much harder in practice. But if you’re in the process of a separation or divorce in which there are young children involved, this may be a helpful article.

Most people know the difference between a personal versus a professional relationship. A personal relationship is usually a friendship that includes voluntary sharing of time, knowing intimate details about one another, and is a more relaxed partnership wherein the parties can be their true, uninhibited self. A professional relationship tends to be more reserved. Information is more guarded, people tend to be on their best behavior, and the relationship is usually confined to specific times and places.

 

Read the rest of the piece here.

 

FROM ADVOCATE DAILY: Legal Aid means litigants less likely to settle

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But there may be behind-the-scenes complicating factors

From this week’s AdvocateDaily:

A family court judge known for his strongly worded decisions is critiquing litigants who find little incentive to settle because they are funded by legal aid, says Ottawa family lawyer Timothy N. Sullivan.

While Sullivan, principal of SullivanLaw, says Justice Alex Pazaratz is right in pointing out such flaws, there are always factors behind the scenes that may force parties to litigate.

“The judge is correct to say there is no financial incentive to settle when you’re legally aided, but there’s also no other recourse for someone who may be abused than to go to court and, if it’s not criminal, ask for a civil restraining order,” Sullivan tells AdvocateDaily.com.

“Many of these cases are clogging up the system, we have people accused of murder having charges stayed because they can’t get to a judge on time, but we have people legally aided, who feel desperate and have no other recourse than to go to court.”

In the recent ruling from Pazaratz – who also wrote a decision known as “Breaking Bad Parents” – he bemoans taxpayer-funded cases that should be settled out of court instead of racking up costs and court time.

“The next time anyone at Legal Aid Ontario tells you they’re short of money, don’t believe it. It can’t possibly be true. Not if they’re funding cases like this,” he wrote.

 

To read the full article, and others by Timothy Sullivan, visit AdvocateDaily.

From DivorcedMoms.com: What lawyers want you to know about your divorce

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Timothy Sullivan tips for divorce

Most of us think we know a lot about divorce from the media or watching others go through it, and often the focus is on the emotional strain, which is difficult for everyone. But even an amicable divorce involves legal ramifications, and there really is no substitute for professional counsel when it comes to that part of divorce.

This week, we joined other lawyers from around the world to share our advice from the front lines of divorce proceedings on the DivorcedMoms website.

Divorce is foreign territory to most who enter it. Friends and family can offer welcome support; but, at many times through the process, it is the wisdom and guidance of a legal professional that is the most valuable. Attorneys, after all, are the trained experts who help us navigate the rather intimidating mountains of forms and court proceedings to assist us in dissolving our dysfunctional marriages.

Lawyers have seen it all! Every imaginable kind of divorce, both amicable and vicious, with every set of circumstances have found their way into the offices of divorce attorneys.

What would the legal experts who have helped hundreds of couples end their unions like the rest of us to know?

Several top divorce lawyers shared the wisdom they wish all of us knew and would heed as we initiate divorces. Take these golden nuggets of advice to heart because they could save you time, trouble, and agony in the future!

You have the power to make your divorce less complicated and expensive!

Every divorce is unpleasant and will require a financial investment to pay for legal expenses; however, if you are cooperative, prepared, upfront with important information, and focus on the intended outcome, you can make the process less painful!

Corrie Sirkin, a family lawyer from Lesnevich, Marzano-Lesnevich, & Trigg in New Jersey shared: “for alimony and equitable distribution, your divorce is financial, not personal. If you provide your attorney with more information and proof; then you will get better advice and your divorce will cost less. Get copies of all financial documents possible and make a list of accounts, debts, and balances. Make a budget of what your family spends now and a proposed budget. Be thorough and accurate.”

Jason Kohlmeyer of Roko Law Office in Minnesota echoed Sirkin’s advice by stressing the importance of staying organized, having a plan, and creating a budget to save money on your divorce. He quipped “whose kids do you want to put through college? Yours or your lawyer’s?”

Think about that! Is a battle to the death with your ex over every last detail of your case worth sacrificing the future financial security of you and your children?

Put your legal representation to work for you!

Ottawa-based attorney Timothy Sullivan, of Sullivan Law, urged “if you hire a lawyer, speak through your lawyer on all legal issues and money matters including custody, access, property, pensions, support, and child and home expenses.”

Doesn’t it make the best sense to let the expert, who you have enlisted to bring you a successful outcome in your divorce, be the one to communicate about all of these sensitive issues? Your lawyer knows just how to phrase important information to preserve your best interests, so speaking without your representative’s assistance could result in miscommunication or complications to your case. Sometimes it’s best to know when to let the one who went to law school do the talking!

For more information and to read the rest of this (pretty helpful) piece, please visit the Divorce Warrior column on the DivorcedMoms site.