From What lawyers want you to know about your divorce


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.


7.5 tips for choosing a family lawyer in Ontario


Asking the right questions will help you find the right fit

The truth is that sometimes in life, you need a family lawyer:  To help with estates, wills and powers of attorney; for property division and mortgage agreements; for marriage and co-habitation agreements; and, yes, for separation, divorce and child custody agreements. It’s a good idea – especially if you have a spouse, children, or aging parents who may need extra care – to have a long-term relationship with a lawyer who can get to know your situation and needs over time.

But many people go without a lawyer because they think the process of finding one is going to be arduous, stressful or expensive.  It doesn’t have to be.  Here are 7.5 tips that’ll make it easier to find the right lawyer for your family, without pulling your hair out or spending a lot of money.

1.  Make a list of your requirements (present and prospective)

A young couple just starting out will have different legal requirements than an older couple with grown children and a blended family.  People with extensive real estate holdings or complicated financial assets may want to choose a legal firm which can offer family law and tax planning under the same roof.  The more you know about what you need, the easier it will be to choose the right lawyer or law firm.

2.  Think about the kind of person you’d most like to work with

Do you prefer to work with brisk, businesslike types in a large legal firm, or would you feel most comfortable with a friendly, down-to-earth lawyer who works out of his/her own small office?

3.  Ask friends and family if they’d recommend anyone

One of the best ways to find a lawyer with the right ‘fit’ for you is to ask people you trust who they trust.  Don’t be afraid to ask questions:  ”Do you like your lawyer?” “Do you think they’re honest with their advice and reasonable about billings?”  ”Do they respond promptly or do they take two weeks to return a call?”

3(b). Consider the LSUC Referral Service

If you’re not sure what kind of lawyer you need, whether maybe you could use a paralegal instead, or haven’t got local friends and family to ask for recommendations, consider contacting the Law Society of Upper Canada’s Referral Service.  They provide free phone consultations (up to 30 minutes), and will help you with finding the right lawyer in your area, as well as answer questions about how the law applies to your situation, how long your legal work might take, and how much your legal work might cost.

4.  Don’t just choose the first person who shows up in a Google search

It’s fine to use Google to get an idea of the available family lawyers in your area, but take the time to really read their websites before you make an appointment.  Just because Google says they’re popular and successful doesn’t mean they’re right for you and your family.

5.   Create a shortlist

Between recommendations from friends and family and some online research, come up with a shortlist of 3-5 lawyers who look like they have the right fit.  (Best idea?  Make a quick list of each one’s pros and cons, and the specific questions you might have for them.)

6.  Ask for a preliminary consultation

All the research in the world is no substitute for meeting a potential lawyer in person.  However, this is where many people get stuck because they think that even a 30-minute ‘meet and greet’ with a prospective lawyer will cost a lot of money.  This isn’t always the case.  Some lawyers offer a ‘free’ initial consultation; some will charge a nominal fee (i.e. $100 for a one-hour meeting).  Don’t hesitate to call and ask – how you’re treated in that first phone call can tell you a lot about the lawyer and law firm all by itself.

7.  Double-check

You’ve made your shortlist, met with a couple of lawyers, and you think you’ve found the right one for you.  Great! But before you sign anything, double-check with the Law Society of Upper Canada.  They can confirm that the lawyer you’re about to choose is properly licensed and in good standing.

Follow these 7.5 steps and you’re almost guaranteed to end up with a family lawyer you like and trust.  See – it wasn’t that hard, was it?