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Alt Divorce

Ottawa Mediation Law Blog

Collaborative family law the Alt Divorce Way

When Ontario couples decide to end their marriages, most of them are determined to get their divorces over and done in the quickest and most painless possible way -- also with a minimum of antagonism and stressful conflict. Is that even possible? The answer is yes -- collaborative family law allows couples to navigate divorce settlement agreements and move forward with all the bitterness and contention left behind.

However, if you choose this process, you must retain the services of a specially qualified collaborative family lawyer. You can find such lawyers at two professional Ottawa family law corporations that promote settlements and facilitate negotiations the Alt Divorce Way. This is done by utilizing a team approach, allowing each spouse along with the respective lawyers to sit down to negotiate a settlement in a cooperative manner by utilizing a number of impartial participants, which could include financial planners, accountants, appraisers and even therapists. It takes place in safe, neutral surroundings where communication and compromise are encouraged.

Breach of trust a vital point in Ontario separation and divorce

Many couples may have lived together as romantic life partners for years before agreeing to tie the knot. Once formally married, a new layer of meaning is added to the relationship whence the urban legend that "marriage changes everything." This ineffable element may strengthen the trust between spouses, or erode it. 

It may or may not be true that, once married, people change. Perhaps only perceptions change. There are cases, however, in which the habits and actions of one spouse may become so pernicious to the health and welfare of the other that family law will take notice. Still, accountability under the law is complex and falls under many headings. Legal definitions of what constitutes harm are best understood by experienced family law lawyers.

The ins and outs of family law mediation for divorce

When you and your spouse decide to separate, there may be concerns you have about various issues pertaining to certain things like child and spousal support, dividing your property, and how to parent your children. If one or more of these things present themselves as contentious issues, you may find that mediation can help you come to a positive solution both you and your spouse can agree on.

Family mediation can be used as a voluntary means of trying to sort out the issues of your divorce while avoiding more time-consuming and stressful litigation. You and your partner will need to be on the same page when it comes to wanting to work together toward a solution for mediation to work, and if you have children, mediation always concentrates on solutions that are best for them.

Avoiding financial infidelity in Ontario separation and divorce

It's always desirable for couples to maintain an overall "need-to-know" communication policy in their relationship. This would include everything from the start time of the kids' hockey game to money and assets, whether held in Ontario or elsewhere. As a recent Canadian poll suggests, not disclosing one's financial status can lead to relationship mayhem and, by inference, to separation and divorce.

Indeed, full and complete financial disclosure by both parties constitutes an important part of the legal process governing divorce. Before arriving at that stage in a partnership, however, the survey results imply ways to avoid falling into the financial infidelity trap. Nearly four out of 10 Canadians surveyed admitted to either withholding information or simply lying about the current or ongoing state of their finances to their partners.

Helping children cope with separation and divorce in Ontario

In times past, the dissolution of a marriage catapulted a couple into the margins of society. Virtually no organizations existed to offer support through the before and after of separation and divorce. Experts in addressing the needs of children were few and far between. Since then, Ontario has become one of the most progressive provinces in offering assistance to divorcing couples and their children.

There is no one way to tell children that their mother and father no longer wish to live together. Moreover, when acting as parents, all adults address their children in ways characteristic of their personalities- -- some positive, some neutral and some negative. In a culture inundated with psychological insights- -- some more valid than others -- there now exist recommendations about how to best prepare a child for the changes to come.

Avoiding parental alienation in Ontario separation and divorce

One of the reasons a couple might forge ahead through an already shattered marriage is fear of parental alienation. Ontario society is familiar with cases in which an embittered spouse seems to launch a campaign to estrange a child's affection from the other parent. In all that can be said about the challenges of separation and divorce, nothing may be as pernicious as trying to turn a child against a parent.

Family law practices have direct experience regarding the emotional upheavals that sometimes render parents blind to how their own anger or anguish affects their children. In some cases, a parent may be completely unaware -- not so much of what they're saying -- as of how they're saying it. In all cases, the influence of a parent's opinion is formidable and will permeate a child's perceptions, for good or ill.

Restoring extended family after Ontario separation and divorce

The statistics on the rate of marriages ending in divorce can often be disheartening. It's easy to forget that such cold data excludes the value of extended family members who frequently might offer support to the reconfigured lives of those who have undergone separation and divorce. Last year, Ontario family law recognized grandparents as distinct from "any person"who could apply for access to or custody of the children of divorced parents.

In this, Ontario has caught up with the majority of its sister provinces. Prior to this monumental legal change, no legal provision for grandparents was enshrined in the province's Children's Law Reform Act. Like anyone else, they could be granted custody of a grandchild if the court saw sufficient reason to do so. Legal custody is a specific legal status with a wide range of responsibilities, and wholly based on the best interests of the child, rather than that of a parent or relative. Alternatively, depending on the circumstances of a particular case, the court could uphold a parent's request to limit or even ban contact with grandparents.

Ontario collaborative family law a joint cooperative effort

The current model of alternative dispute resolution -- that is, reaching a mutually satisfying agreement peaceably, outside the courts -- probably originated in the distant past when two warring factions decided to forgo the bloodbath and find common ground instead. Similarly, marriage is based on commonality, which doesn't magically vanish when an Ontario couple decides to divorce. This is where collaborative family law can provide a potentially less forbidding path through the emotional and legal tangle entailed by a formal divorce.

Collaborative family law accommodates the desire of both parties to avoid wrangling, and along with their respective lawyers, work cooperatively. In addition to each party retaining counsel, resource people, such as financial professionals, are also on hand to help solve all material issues collectively. This access to a range of skilled advisors may help reduce stress and promote clearer communication.

Mediation can help Ontario common-law couples that separate

It bears repeating that Ontario law treats the dissolution of legal marriage and that of a common-law union very differently. That said, some common-law relationships endure for decades, and, as in formal marriages, accumulate property and assets, and, along the way, parent children. In such cases, mediation may provide invaluable information on the legal differences as well as helping to reduce conflict.

A family law practice which offers professional mediation to its clients frequently has resources available to address issues common to both formal and common-law unions. Examples are child custody and access, and property and debt sharing and division. Yet, without guidance, a common-law couple planning to dissolve a longstanding living arrangement may be shocked at the stark contrast in the legal treatment of the very same issues, according to whether or not the union is a legal one.

Could negotiation be the right approach for your divorce?

Once you and your spouse decide that your marriage is over, there are ways to make the divorce process less stressful. One of those ways is by negotiating the legalities. It's likely an emotional time for you both with perhaps some less-than-positive emotions. However, by communicating your wishes to each other -- either face to face, on the phone or through emails -- you might save a lot of time, costs and possible anxiety. You can do this with a mediator if being alone together is too emotionally volatile.

It is highly recommended that you and your former partner have separate legal counsel during this time. Negotiations don't have to be formal or adhere to any rules. Negotiating is about what works best for you and your soon-to-be ex-spouse. But, anything you agree on should be written into a separation agreement -- including things like spousal and/or child support and custody particulars.

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