Seeking Legal Advice on Divorce: Who Should You Talk To?
Ending a marriage consumes your entire life. You’re worried about the financial impact, the effect the separation will have on your children, the uncertainty of the future – not to mention the heartbreak. So it’s only natural to want to discuss this with your family and friends, who will undoubtedly have advice to give.
This would be a mistake. The first person you should speak to about a separation and divorce should always be a lawyer. This may seem self-serving but it is good advice and true. Well-meaning advice from loved ones, even if they’ve been through a divorce themselves, is often either not applicable to your particular situation or just plain incorrect. Getting the wrong idea about how to handle the situation at the beginning of separation proceedings can cause enormous problems later on. Bad advice can cost you a lot of money and more heartache. Divorce lawyers help clients with these issues everyday. We know how to get things resolved efficiently. We’ve seen it all.
Tips for Getting Legal Advice on Divorce
So how do you go about finding a good lawyer? You could always just do a Google search or pick one out of the yellow pages (if you have the yellow pages book in your home), but choosing a lawyer at random is always a risk. Here are some tips on how to find the right lawyer for you and help the process go as smoothly as possible:
- After searching online for legal professionals, read their websites thoroughly. A good law office will provide plenty of information about the firm, including the fields each of their lawyers works in, from real estate to corporate law to family law. Check to see whether they concentrate on family law or if they dabble in a little bit of everything.
- Ask for referrals. Even though we just said not to discuss your divorce with anyone, asking them for lawyer recommendations is a different story.
- Look online for testimonials to see how they are viewed by past clients. Remember, every lawyer will have some negative reviews so just look for their overall reputation.
- Start gathering documents. Your lawyer will tell you exactly what you need to provide, including documentation on all of your financial assets and liabilities.
- Be clear about dates. When you’re under stress, it’s hard to remember details, so make sure to keep records of important events and discussions, such as the official date of separation and any temporary agreements you’ve come to regarding things like who will stay in the home and where your children will live.
- It’s a good idea to keep a “divorce diary” as a record of any conversations you and your spouse have regarding your separation.
- Learn everything you can about the divorce process in Ontario – but make sure you’re getting your information from reputable sources. The Ministry of the Attorney General has published a handbook titled What You Should Know About Family Law that is very helpful.
- Create a written list of questions so that when you go to a consultation with a lawyer, you won’t forget the questions you want to ask.
There are several options for couples who are splitting up, from a simple, uncontested divorce to a more complicated court trial. It all depends on factors ranging from how much property you have to whether you’ve had any children, but it’s possible that – with good advice from a qualified lawyer – you can end your marriage with comparatively little difficulty and expense. If both parties are ready and willing to work on an agreement, it can go smoothly. If someone is digging in their heals, it can become the “divorce from hell”.
- Kitchen table divorce: You and your spouse reach an agreement on your own and then you bring it to lawyers to turn into a legally binding separation agreement. This is the least expensive process.
- Mediation: A neutral third party will help you and your spouse work out the terms of an agreement. The lawyers will then turn the agreement into a legally binding separation agreement.
- Collaborative team practice: Complicated and difficult cases can be resolved without going to court using this process. You’ll each have your own lawyer and you’ll work with a family professional and financial profession to achieve the best outcome for all parties instead of fighting each other in court.
- Arbitration: When you’re having more trouble coming to an agreement, there are still ways to make that happen without going to court. An arbitrator is someone who is jointly hired by you and your spouse and is given the same powers of a judge to make decisions about your case.
- Litigation: This is the end of the line. If you’ve exhausted all other options and just cannot find any common ground, the divorce will go to court. This is the most complicated and expensive way to go, which is why the divorce process in Ontario allows for so many opportunities to avoid it. We are regularly in Family Court so have the expertise you need to ensure your rights are protected.
Your lawyer will go over all of your options with you and help you decide the best course of action. You’ll also learn what you are entitled to, what your obligations are, and what you should be prepared to compromise on.
Dos and Don’ts of Divorce Advice
While your lawyer is the most important source of divorce advice, it’s not the only one available. Here are some other people you should speak to:
- Financial professionals: Speak with your bank, financial advisor, and perhaps even a credit counselor who will help you manage the financial aspects of a divorce.
- Mental health professionals: It’s a good idea to look into attending support groups, finding a counselor, or speaking with your clergy to help you and your children cope with the stress of getting a divorce. It is an emotional journey so get some help moving through the stages.
- Your children’s teachers: You may want to speak with your children’s teachers and principal to let them know what’s going on and find out how you can best support your children as they try to get through this difficult time.
On the other hand, there are several sources that you should avoid when it comes to divorce advice:
- TV and movies: Not only are these often set in other areas where the laws are different – if they pay attention to the actual laws at all – these plots are exaggerated for dramatic effect and should never be used as a reference for real-life divorces.
- Mutual friends: As tempting as it is to vent to your friends, avoid putting them in a position where they feel they have to take sides.
- Extended friends and family: Find a few close confidantes to share your feelings with, but avoid broadcasting far and wide. You don’t want things getting back to your ex and causing further problems.
- Your children: Do not involve you children even if they are adults. Do not seek their advice or sympathy. It is not fair to your children to involve them in your issues. Keep it private from them at all times.
- Non-legal professionals: Avoid oversharing with any professionals who work with both of you, such as your family doctor, realtor, bankers, or even the babysitters.
Call Galbraith Family Law for Expert Advice
If a separation and divorce is on the horizon, the first phone call you make should be to a lawyer. The team at Galbraith Family Law has extensive experience in all types of divorces and can provide you with sound legal advice on divorce and division of assets to make the process go as smoothly as possible. To learn more about Ontario property division laws when separating or divorcing, read our guide and learn the answers to your most common property division questions.