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Any type of legal dispute is difficult. Being involved in a family law matter is unique. It can sometimes push you beyond your emotional limits. It can be overwhelmingly stressful and can make you think, say and sometimes do things that you never imagined yourself doing. I know, because I've lived through a volatile divorce and custody proceedings. Family law litigation has huge costs for everyone involved not the least of which are the children of parties.

Hiring a lawyer who is experienced in family law matters to advocate on your behalf is the smartest way to reach a legal outcome that is not only favourable but one that minimizes friction. A lawyer who strategically recognizes and negotiates opportunities that only legal training and experience can produce can be your most effective tool in resolving a family law matter. I know this because I was forced to self-represent in my own family law matters for years. If I had it to do over, I would have hired the best lawyer I could afford. Looking back, I realize that I did myself and my daughter's legal interests and entitlements a huge disservice in many key areas in spite of the fact that the experience was an apprenticeship for my early years as a lawyer.

Self-representation in family law matters in Ontario has reached endemic proportions and is, in my view, threatening the judicial system's ability to function properly in this important area of law. This over representation happens for a variety of reasons. Sometimes, it is because people genuinely cannot afford representation. Other times it is because they incorrectly assume that they cannot afford to hire a lawyer. It can also be because having dealt with filling out the court forms themselves for a period of time they develop a comfort level. They misstakenly begin to think that knowing how to fill out the forms and being able to speak for themselves is all it takes to represent yourself in family court. Sadly, it is this type of litigant who realizes too late that they're wrong. Family law is a complicated area of law with significant and irrevocable consequences. As one of my old professors used to say, would you go to the hospital and tell the doctor "that's okay. I'll perform my own surgery today"? Of course not! Watching reruns of Law and Order episodes does not adequately prepare you to argue your own family law matters. Conducting legal proceedings is far more complicated and technical than it ever appears in television shows or movies.

Less frequently, some self-represented litigants use the courts as a forum continuing the dynamics of a bad marriage or relationship by trying to control or dominate their ex-spouse through the litigation process. Unfortunately for these folks, they do not realize that doing this can come at a very high price financially when the judiciary realizes what is going on and a costs order is imposed. And believe me, it doesn't take long to spot a litigant like this. The family law bench is sharp. They've seen it all. Eventually, if you're a litigant like this, the court will call your bluff and you will pay for it.

Whatever your circumstances, having a professionally trained advocate involved and handling your case will ensure that your legal issues are dealt with in a timely manner and that they are completed with the minimum amount of cost and the best results available under the law. A lawyer has the emotional distance from your family law matters to prepare, strategize, negotiate with the other side and execute a plan that will help you end whatever conflict you're involved in without spending too much of your hard-earned money. Effective advocacy is as much about knowing when to try to persuade as it is to not. The smartest lawyer knows when to make a legal argument but equally knows when it is time to sit down and literally shut up.

Some lawyers who practise family law will tell you "I'm your lawyer. I'm not your psychiatrist or social worker". While technically that is true, I recognize from my experience that family law can be a highly emotional and sensitive time for a lot of clients. As your advocate, I will do what it takes to help you understand and deal with the pressures of the process. I will speak, negotiate and advocate on your behalf to help minimize your stress level in addition to resolving your legal dispute. I will be caring and sensitive. While I am not a trained therapist, I will always appreciate what you're going through and if it is needed, I will assist you in finding professional help for those difficult issues that become too overwhelming.

As your lawyer, I will always tailor my approach to meet your specific needs. The work that I do for you will exceed your expectations. You will be able to expect a high level of service. I will think outside the box. I will try to encourage settlement where possible, but will go to court for you when that is the only reasonable solution. Anyone who knows me knows that I am passionate about what I do and that I will work tirelessly for you. If you hire me, you will always have an advocate who is well-mannered and who conducts your legal business in a courteous and dignified manner regardless of the forum. If a potential client expects me to behave aggressively and unprofessionally with opposing counsel, their client or the court, it is my suggestion that you would be better served by a different lawyer. My professionalism is the cornerstone of my reputation. I will never compromise it. In the end, I believe that this best serves my clients because the court will know that when I'm there it is only because it is absolutely necessary and that I will always conduct myself professionally and with candour.

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