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Couple divorcing without a lawyer

If you are initiating divorce proceedings, you may be tempted to resort to online toolkits or first try navigating the process yourself. It may appear that pursuing a divorce without a lawyer will save you time and money. This is often not the case, and you may risk overlooking complex legal issues or drawing out the process for longer than necessary. Below are some of the issues to consider before attempting a divorce on your own.

Paperwork, Filing, and the Legal Process

Online divorce kits suggest that divorce is a simple process that just requires filling out a few forms. In reality, divorce situations have the potential to become highly complex quickly and require the assistance of an experienced lawyer.

Many people are unprepared for the work associated with a divorce and end up spending hours trying to figure out what is needed and how to proceed. A divorce lawyer at Valerie M. Little Law Corporation is highly experienced in this type of work and can ensure that your documents are filled out, filed properly and all aspects of your matter are considered. In addition, the court may require documents within a particular time frame. There may also be limitation periods. There are time limits imposed by law for filing certain claims and if you do not file your claim by a specific time, you will be forever prevented for pursuing those claims. A lawyer who handles your divorce can advise you of the limitation periods and ensure you have advanced your case within the prescribed time lines.  It is also often important to obtain your divorce order as expeditiously as possible, especially if you have a wedding date fast approaching.

At Valerie M. Little Law Corporation, a divorce lawyer can also assist with certain or all relief addition to the divorce. These issues are additional to the divorce and are corollary relief. This corollary relief may include drafting a separation agreement and determining custody, access or parenting time with your former spouse. Valerie is an experienced family lawyer and she is able to identify potential obstacles that you may face in your family law case. It is difficult to face a complicated legal battle without legal education, training and experience in the court room as you will have to navigate the legal landscape without the benefit of this legal training and experience. This can be especially difficult in the event you are also trying to cope with the separation and the new challenges separated living brings.

In Nelson v. Nelson, 2000 BCSC 1276 (CanLII), the element of emotional distress affected proceedings dramatically. The defendant in this case was self-represented. The judge noted that the defendant’s applications to the court were “hopelessly ill-conceived”, further adding that the defendant was unfamiliar with the rules of procedure in court. The judge cites the defendant’s behavior in court as abusive towards the lawyers representing the plaintiff. As a result of his failure to properly deliver any useful evidence or contributions to the case, as well as his conduct in court, the judge made an award of special costs. The defendant was required to pay the plaintiff’s costs for the applications made in this case. With the guidance of a lawyer, the award of special costs would have been avoided, and there would have been potential for the defendant to make meaningful submissions to the court which would have assisted in advancing his case and making his arguments more persuasive.

Divorce Involving Children

Some of the complicating elements of many divorce cases are the issues of child custody, access, support and parenting. If you have children, you will likely have to deal with these issues, which are not usually very straightforward and are known to become extremely contentious. A family law lawyer will protect your legal rights and try help to avoid unnecessary complications such as when and if to introduce a new partner to your children.

Child custody, access and support arrangements can vary widely and change over time as the child’s needs or residency changes. It is possible to insert review clauses into the agreement when the parent will revisit these issues as the child matures. 

If there are unresolved issues between the parents, then a judge may not grant a divorce until the issues are settled. The unresolved issues could be about custody, parenting arrangements, current support, retroactive support and future support. These examples are only a few of the potential issues that you could face during the course of your divorce.

Omitting the step of Obtaining Legal Advice 

A divorce lawyer is familiar with the technical side of legal proceedings, including the grounds for divorce and ideal timing to seek a divorce in your situation. A divorce lawyer also has valuable advice concerning potential issues, such as the need for financial and estate planning, awareness of tax liabilities, assisting in negotiations with the other party’s counsel, and ensuring full financial disclosure. A divorce lawyer can also advise you on future steps, including adding in a dispute resolution mechanism to follow if disputes arise in the future.

Even if you are somewhat familiar with the legal issues in your matter, a divorce lawyer can guide you on these issues and work to make sure you don’t lose legal rights. Your divorce lawyer’s primary job is to ensure your legal and financial interests are protected. It is valuable to have an objective opinion from your lawyer and double so when the legal proceedings are emotionally distressing. It is also helpful to obtain a Certificate of Independent Legal Advice at the time of signing any type of agreement, be it a Cohabitation Agreement, Separation Agreement or Mariage Agreement in the event the other party litigates any issues in the agreement in the future. 

Consider the case of Hurford v. Burgart, 2011 BCSC 1551 (CanLII). The respondent, Mr. Joseph Burgart, was self-represented while dealing with the child-support issues of his 2008 divorce. He sought to reduce the amount of child support accumulating under the 2008 child support consent order, but he was unsuccessful. During the proceedings, Mr. Burgart refused an offer to settle from the claimant, which forced the claimant to take on the costs of a lengthy legal battle. At the conclusion of the case, costs would have been awarded in a manner which was substantially similar to the suggested costs in the offer to settle. However, by not accepting the offer to settle, the judge found Mr. Burgart behaved unreasonably and therefore doubled the costs Mr. Burgart was ordered to pay. Had Mr. Burgart sought independent legal advice in the advance of the hearing, he may have accepted the offer to settle and avoided the expensive court proceeding and not faced paying double costs.

Choose Your Legal Consultation With Valerie M. Little, Divorce Lawyer in New Westminster

Do yourself a favour and get the legal information you need before you take any legal steps in your case. Contact Valerie M. Little, a trusted and experienced family lawyer in New Westminster. A divorce can easily go sideways quickly. Hire a professional to ensure your case stays on track from the outset. The law firm Valerie M. Little Corporation can assist you in resolving a wide range of divorce-related issues and can help you understand your options in whatever family law situation you are facing. Ease your stress. Contact us at 604-526-3333 today for a private consultation to find out what can be done to resolve your family law issues. 


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