10 Delays & 10 Things That We Can Do About It! Part 3 of 3: 10 Things You & Your Lawyer Can Do To Make Things Run Efficiently

Nov 29, 2016

By Charles Morrison, Lawyer

  1. Have realistic expectations.  Resolution of your family law matter will not be instant.  Your lawyer is there to advise and provide their opinion.  It is important to have realistic expectations and to establish with your lawyer at the outset what they are being hired to do and whether there are any limitations on the work that they are going to do for you.
  2. Assemble all necessary financial information.  At the beginning of a file we give our clients “homework” which includes the assembly of financial information regarding income, expenses, assets and liabilities as well as the completion of a financial questionnaire.  We realize that this can entail a lot of work.  Depending on how well you have kept your financial records (e.g., income tax returns, notices of assessments, bank statements, pension statements etc) this needs to be done promptly and the information exchanged with the other side.
  3. Understand court procedures or how negotiations will take place.  We certainly do not expect you to become an expert in court procedure or law however, there are a number of stages in a court action.  In our office we provide our clients with a brochure that sets out the various stages and what to expect.  Even in negotiated settlement, it is important to have a basic understanding of the methods that we use.  In the appropriate time, you and your lawyer should canvass the possibility of one or more direct meetings with your spouse and his or her lawyer.
  4. Consider collaborative family law.  In collaborative family law, we deal with interest based negotiation rather than starting with “positions”.  We discuss the issues in a series of four way meetings.  We have an agenda, keep detailed notes of our meetings, have homework and an agenda for the next meeting.  We also try to impose deadlines and time lines.  Collaborative family law is not necessarily suitable for each and every family law client however, we have practiced this innovative form of negotiation for several years and often recommend it to our clients. 
  5. Respond promptly to your lawyer’s letters.
  6. Ensure your lawyer has clear instructions from you.
  7. You need to pay your legal fees as they come due and provide, when requested, further deposits (retainers).  This is something that should be clearly set out with your own lawyer.  You should know their rates and if possible, receive an estimate of what the matter may cost.  Because the estimate may depend on many factors, often the lawyer can give a range.
  8. Do not try to resolve matters on your own.  I do not discourage my clients from contacting their spouse however, I do caution them not to create a second level of discussions and negotiations.  This can lead to misunderstandings and can complicate a settlement.  It is ok to speak generally but avoid going into history and stop if the discussion turns into argument.
  9. Be careful with social media.  What you say to your spouse is messaging or e-mail may turn up in an affidavit and it may not be very favourable.  We do incidentally suggest that communication be not only cordial and constructive but that our clients consider software products that are appearing on the market.  One of these software products is Our Family Wizard and it facilitates communication between separated spouses especially regarding scheduling for their children, exchange of documents, notices.
  10. Avoid entering into new financial obligations, if you can.  We are sometimes faced with a situation in which our client has already signed an offer for a new home before having settled with their spouse the division of the proceeds of sale from their old home.  This is only one example.  It is sometimes necessary to enter into new financial obligations whether the purchase of assets or arrangements for credit however, it is best to avoid putting yourself into a financial bind that you cannot get out of if a settlement is not worked out by a certain deadline.

These are only some of the things that together you and your lawyer can do.