Our Approach We believe that each one of our clients is unique and that no two legal problems are exactly alike. We assist our clients in resolving family and divorce legal issues by helping them identify which approach is best for them and creating a flexible, custom made plan to help achieve success. Our goals are to: • Educate our clients as to the law, their rights and obligations. • Advise as to the various methods which can be used to address our client’s legal needs. • Resolve our client’s legal issues privately and with the least amount of conflict if possible. • Litigate in Court to achieve our client’s objectives. • Achieve a fair, constructive and respectful resolution for our client’s in a timely and cost effective fashion. Methods We Use to Resolve Disputes We employ a variety of methods to assist our client’s in achieving a successful resolution. These include: • Legal Advice • Negotiation • Mediation • Collaborative Law • Arbitration • Litigation • Appeals Legal Advice Whether a client is entering into a new relationship, thinking of cohabitation, getting married, Separating or Divorcing we always encourage that they become educated about their rights and the possible legal consequences of their choices and their rights. We believe that this is best achieved by consulting with a knowledgeable family lawyer so that they may avoid making irreparable mistakes. Contact us for a consultation to help identify what issues may arise. Negotiation Negotiation can be a practical method of addressing custody, access, child support, spousal support and property issues. This can be done by the clients directly or with the assistance of their respective lawyers. We encourage our clients to equip themselves with the best possible legal information from our members of our legal team. Although often times successful negotiation of various issues can be done by correspondence between lawyers, frequently meetings between the parties and their respective counsel can be helpful. This method of resolving legal issues is most effective when parties are forthright about their income, assets and liabilities and are open to creative dialogue and is voluntary in nature. We encourage our clients to focus on their underlying interest as opposed to their positions. Negotiation can be a cost effective method of resolving the issues amicably. If a resolution is achieved the parties can attend to the preparation of a Separation Agreement or a Court Order. It may be possible for parties to reach a negotiated settlement on some issues but not others and a negotiated agreement may be interim or permanent. Our legal team has successfully negotiated solutions to family and divorce issues for many of our clients. Mediation Mediation is a voluntary method of resolving legal disputes which often leads to a great deal of satisfaction for separating or divorcing clients. A neutral mediator who does not take sides in the dispute can assists parties in: • Facilitating discussion about the issues in dispute; • Identifying their underlying reasons for their various positions; • Narrowing down the issues between them; • Directing the parties to generate potential solutions; • Encouraging collaboration between the parties; • Working to create a plan. Just as with negotiation, full and frank financial disclosure is needed by both parties to reach a satisfactory solution. A mediator does not advise parties of their legal rights and it is best to obtain such advice before going to mediation. Everything said during mediation is confidential and cannot be used in Court. Mediation can reduce the emotional and financial costs of a contested separation or divorce. Once an agreement is mediated the parties must contact their own respective lawyers to review the proposed agreement, provide appropriate independent legal advice and draft a legally enforceable contract. Depending on the circumstances of the client Mediation is not always the best way to address a client’s legal needs and it is best to obtain the assistance of a lawyer to determine whether your case is best suited for this method of alternative dispute resolution. Our legal team has successfully prepared our clients for mediation, mediated, assisted in mediation and formalized mediated agreements for many of our clients. Collaborative Law As with mediation, collaborative law relies on the parties’ willingness to cooperate and disclose their income, assets, liabilities and to explore their underlying interests. The parties and their lawyers lay down the ground rules for an open discussion about the issues and attempt to resolve the issues to address the needs of all parties involved. The participating parties must commit to resolving the matter without the use of litigation and to this end must sign an agreement that they will not take the issues between them to Court with the use of the same lawyers they use for the Collaborative resolution process. If the collaborative process is unsuccessful the parties must retain new lawyers if they wish to litigate. ?Our legal team has prepared our clients to participate in the collaborative law process and has successfully achieved resolutions for many of our clients using the collaborative method of resolving family law issues. Arbitration Arbitration is a voluntary process whereby the parties submit to have the issues between them decided by an agreed upon Arbitrator who will render a binding Arbitration award (a decision) on agreed upon issues between the parties. The Alberta Arbitration Act governs the arbitration process and many of the costly and time consuming formalities associated with the litigation process can be avoided when necessary. The other added benefits of Arbitration is confidentiality in the process and the speed with which a matter can be decided on when compared to seeking a finite decision through the Court process. Arbitration however is not an inexpensive process and the parties must pay for the Arbitrator’s time. Our legal team has successfully resolved issues through the Arbitration process for our clients. Litigation Litigation involves the resolution of issues between the parties by a Judge or Justice in Court. The parties can make Court Appearances seeking interim (temporary) solutions to immediate problems but finite resolutions which require special hearing which vary in length or trials. The full process which is often not completed may involve pre trial disclosure, Questioning, and interim Court Applications and is governed by the Alberta Rules of Court. Written evidence in the form of Affidavits are produced by the parties for hearings. Litigation can be used when negotiation, mediation or collaborative law has failed or at the beginning of legal proceedings if needed. Clients can attend at morning chambers to obtain immediate temporary assistance from the Courts and some of the most often heard applications address: • Assess and contact to children; • Orders for exclusive possession of the matrimonial home or other goods such as vehicles; • Child support Orders; • Spousal support Orders; • Restraining Orders; • Orders compelling financial Disclosure; • Orders compelling a party to refrain from doing something such as dissipating assets; Litigation may lend itself well for interim solutions for many parties. This is especially true when the other party is reluctant to negotiate, mediate or cooperate in alternative dispute resolution. In the long run it may not be the best method of resolving disputes in areas dealing with custody. This process may also be cost prohibitive for many parties. Our legal team has successfully addressed cases in the Provincial Court of Alberta, the Court of Queen’s Bench and the Alberta Court of Appeal. Appeals A decision of the Courts can be reviewed at a higher Court level if a party believes that a Judge or Justice has made a mistake in interpreting the facts or the law. Appeals are usually done by a higher Court legal by examining the Court Record – the materials before the lower Court and the Court Transcripts as well as the decision. An Appeal is not a new trial and depending on the reason for the Appeal may us a standard with which to approach the review of a lower Court’s decision. An Appellate Court may: • Direct amendment of any proceeding before it; • Receive further evidence either by oral examination, by affidavit, upon commission or otherwise; • Draw inferences of fact; • Direct a new trial; • Give any judgment and make any order which ought to have been made and make such further or other order as the case may require; • Make such order as to costs as to it seems just. Our legal team has successfully Appealed and responded to Appeals in the Court of Queen’s Bench, the Alberta Court of Appeal and the Supreme Court of Canada.