Family law is fact based, and there are always at least two sides to each story. I like to say that there are three sides, spouse one’s, spouse two’s, and what actually happened. The reason I say this is because everyone brings their own interpretations and biases to each situation with which they are faced. Feelings influence everything. Something as innocuous as your ex-spouse responding via text with a simple “yes or no” can be misinterpreted. It will take a while to get to a place where you can be logical again, but this is why you have a lawyer.
Clients often criticize lawyers for not believing them or not caring about their personal situation. First of all, what we, as lawyers believe is completely irrelevant. All that matters in the legal realm is what we can prove. This is crucial to remember during separation. Emotions run high during separation and logic can evade even the most sensible amongst us. Evidence in any family law case is crucial, and when you are negotiating or litigating a parenting plan- you, the parent are my evidence.
I am quite particular about how I present my evidence. I like my evidence to be neat and tidy, efficient and effective. That goes for you, along with your documentary evidence. If you are trying to obtain an order for sole or joint custody you need to make sure that you have behaved appropriately. This is often easier said than done, but my clients who have headed this advice have come out successful. Look no further than the results I obtained in Krasnay v Plugers. I would like to take credit for being a superior litigator, but truth be told, my client on that case took my advice and he was great evidence.
When you are going through a separation the hardest transition is to move from a negative intimate relationship with your former spouse, now co-parent, to a positive business relationship. Along with being difficult this can feel artificial. The best piece of advice I can offer is to treat your former spouse how you would treat a colleague, or better yet, your boss. Keep communication focused and considerate. You no longer have to dwell on your former spouses shortcomings because you have left the relationship, now is the time to focus on the good, and if there are children, focus on the children. If you can’t do it for yourself, do it for your children. It is more important to show your children, and frankly a court, that you can put their needs ahead of your hate for your former spouse.
Litigants become embattled with “winning”. Trust me when I tell you, there are no winners in family law litigation- ever. Winning is a concept that people take too far. People often want revenge, and this is normal, but know that it is costly. Taking the high road is always better in the long run. No matter how poor someone else’s behaviour is you gain power and freedom by knowing that you can only control your own actions. Treating your former spouse with respect will get you much further in the long run than battling endlessly. Making a nasty comment may, at the time, make you feel better, like you have won, but in the long run, this is damaging evidence against you. Be your best you- be my best evidence!
In a world of electronic communication it is so easy to tell someone exactly how you feel in the heat of the moment. It is here that I warn my clients that, “anything you say can and will be used against you in a court of law”. That is where the similarities with American legal television ends. Sending an angry text or email may be gratifying at the time, but once you have put it out there it never goes away. Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, twitter and whatever else there is that I am too old to know about, are horrible places to air your dirty laundry. People post about everything these days and I like to remind my clients that one day their toddler will be active on all of these mediums.
Social media increases legal bills tenfold. I have had many a file where a client drops off four bankers boxes mean Facebook posts for me to go through. Sometimes this is necessary, however the best advice I can give is stay off social media during the separation process. Tell your friends you do not care to see what your former spouse says about you. I have had to tell my friends to stop telling me when a disgruntled client writes a bad review, because I have come to the realization that other people’s opinion of me is none of my business.
Social media can be fun, and addictive and everyone has the urge to make their life look better than it is. This can be damaging during negotiation and or litigation. Imagine claiming that you have a rather low income and cannot afford your support obligation, but then posting pictures of your latest Caribbean vacation.
Slandering your ex-spouse on social media is an absolute DON’T. Just do not do this. It will get you nowhere, other than in a judge’s bad books, which is exactly where you do not want to be. Now, if your ex is out there slandering you online, print that out, I want to see it!
Litigation often comes down to a he said she said battle. It is best to keep diligent records of when the children are in your care and things for which you have paid. This is all about evidence. It does not matter what I believe, it matters what I can prove! This can get tricky because another piece of advice I give clients is not to focus on trivial things. Men and women parent differently, there are entire books written about this for that reason! Moms tend to be more controlling while Dads tend to be more laid back. There are exceptions to the rule, but a good piece of advice is for moms to loosen up and dads to tighten up. Children thrive on consistency. Things need to be similar in both homes, but not the same. Strive to have the same basic rules, but don’t get upset if one parent’s bed or meal time is a bit later.
This is all very hard to digest, and really is just the tip of the iceberg, but hopefully by listening to me rant I have helped you with some aspect of your separation!
The opinions in the blog are not legal advice, each situation is unique and you must meet with a lawyer to discuss the particulars of your case.