The Best Family Law Advice May Not Be What You Think It Is

The best family law advice in our opinion starts with avoiding the court process if possible. At the same time, we recognize that court cannot be avoided at all costs and in all circumstances. In such cases, your lawyer may have to go to court. This is especially the case when the other party is not being reasonable (or let's just say it, when they are being totally unreasonable).

Family law advice comes in many different forms and is different in each case depending on the facts of each separate family. It also depends on whether or not the lawyer giving the advice believes in trying to resolve the matter instead of going to court. 

Some lawyers believe that going to court right away is the answer.  Other lawyers, (like us at Hemminger Law Group Westshore) offer family law advice differently. Our family law advice is that we do our best to avoid the court system until and unless we feel that we have no choice but to proceed to court.

At the same time, we are definitely willing, prepared, and ready to go to court if necessary. We see court as only one available tool in our toolbox as family law lawyers. Family law matters are governed by the BC Family Law Act.

So now that we have the court stuff out of the way (because sometimes we have to go there), this is what we really think when it comes to our clients, ourselves, and the families and communities in which we live. 

The best family law advice always remembers these things:

1. As our lawyer friend Crystal Buchan says, "There is no such thing as throw away people." Just because people are separating, does not mean you have to erase them from your life, memories, and the lives of your children. Remember this when trying to negotiate a settlement. 

2. Our kids and communities are learning not from what what we say, but how we behave. If we want our kids to grow up to be kind, compassionate, and happy people with successful relationships, we need to live our lives as kind, compassionate and happy people too. Yes, and we know this is asking a lot. Because separation hurts. 

3. Our kids are going to get over the fact of our separation. If we let them. Remember our kids want to get on with the job of growing up and enjoying life. If we are constantly at war with the other parent, that hurts our kids. 

4. Even though you are separated, it is not necessary for an entire family to divorce a person. Even though the marriage that may have introduced you to the family is ending, there are many reasons to remain in touch. Relationships with other human beings is part of what makes us human. This is because family is about the heart

5. It is always our goal to ensure that both (or all parents, including stepparents) can celebrate milestone events with our kids. This is whether it is an end of school assembly, a graduation, or their wedding. It is important that we always realize we are part of something greater, and that greater, is our family, even if that family looks totally different than it used to. 

Despite the Best Family Law Advice That Says "Avoid the Courtroom" Sometimes . . . 

Despite the best family law advice stating to avoid court, sometimes, we have strongly recommended court action.  Here are some examples from the cases at our law firm:

  • In a case where the Dad and Mom split up before the child was born and the father wanted to have an ongoing and involved role with the child. He wanted to be a Dad. The mother did not want the child to have anything to do with the father and despite his requests she ignored his wishes to see the child. In this case we recommended that he go to court because otherwise the child was not going to have a relationship with her Dad. 
  • In a situation where the Dad had some limited parenting time with the child and the parenting time, at the Mom’s insistence, was fully supervised by a paid professional supervisor. Despite the supervisor stating that the Dad had great parenting skills and that the child would benefit from more time with their Dad and the ultimate removal of supervision, the Mom refused.  We went to court to increase Dad’s parenting time and to remove the requirement for supervision. 
  • The Mom, who had primary care of the child was in desperate need of child support and the Dad refused to make an agreement to pay anything whatsoever. He said that in order for him to pay any child support “a court would have to order it.” So, we went to court and the court ordered it. 
  • A mature couple married and all of the wife’s savings went into the property the husband owned prior to marriage. When the parties separated, the husband refused to compensate the wife for any of the funds that she spent on the property. If he had his way, she was to leave the relationship with no savings, no assets, and no support. Court was necessary. 
  • After a 14-year marriage, the wife had enough of the husband’s violent behavior towards her. She advised him that the marriage was over and the parties separated. The wife worked from the family home and the husband worked out of town and returned to town for one week each month. It was agreed that the husband, while in town, would reside at his brother’s house until matters were settled. Despite the agreement, when the husband returned to town he again insisted upon staying at the family residence. When at the family residence he went through his wife’s personal belongings, was checking the wife’s emails, and was yelling at her every time she attempted to make a work-related telephone call. We went to court to obtain exclusive possession of the family residence for the wife.

Although sometimes it is important to go to court like in the above circumstances, it is almost always worth considering whether or not the matter can be resolved by avoiding the court process. At Hemminger Law Group Westshore we ask ourselves (and our client) in each case if mediation might make sense? What about a meeting with the other party and their lawyer? 

It always depends upon the circumstances of course and each situation is different.

This article was written by Val Hemminger, lawyer at Hemminger Law Group Westshore