COVID-19: Why now is not the time to put your life on hold

It feels as though life is on hold these days.  People’s careers have been paused.  Kids are home from school.  Our social lives have become considerably more restricted.  We have all been forced to become homebodies, even if we (secretly) don’t mind it. 

However, now is not the time to put your life on hold.  You may have heard that the courts in Saskatchewan have largely been shut down and are only proceeding with emergency situations. As an update, the courts will begin hearing non-urgent applications again in the beginning of June by telephone.  Those of you who are contemplating a separation or divorce may think you are out of luck until the courts begin hearing new matters.  I’m here to tell you that this is not the case. 

There are several process options available to you to deal with your separation or divorce outside of court.  In fact, with the extra time many of us have these days, it makes sense to deal with these matters now so that you can have a fresh start after the COVID-19 quarantine ends. It will soon become mandatory to engage in one of the processes described below before you can seek relief from the courts, so why not get ahead of the curve? 

Collaborative Law:

Through the collaborative law process, parties enter into an agreement right from the start stating that they will not proceed through the court to settle their issues, which saves the heightened animosity and tension court proceedings bring.  It also ensures that the parties are focusing on resolving their issues in a frank and forthcoming fashion, which can ultimately result in time and cost savings and more practical solutions which work best for the parties.  If the parties are ultimately unable to resolve their issues through this process, they can still seek relief of the courts afterward.

You and the other party would work closely with collaboratively-trained and certified lawyers to resolve the legal issues in the case, including property division, custody/decision making, parenting plans, child and spousal support, and divorce.  These lawyers have special training in negotiation, interest identification and option creating, and domestic violence.

Depending on the case and the needs of the parties, other professionals may also be brought into the process.  One such professional is a collaboratively-certified financial advisor, who works to gather property and income information from both parties and provides analysis. They can also be retained by the parties to help them develop a financial plan to move forward with their lives.

The other professional which can be brought in is a collaboratively-certified mental health professional to help the parties deal with issues between them and work together toward settlement.  This professional can also help the parties learn how to best co-parent with each other moving forward and ensure that the children’s needs are identified and incorporated into a final settlement.

In cases where intimate partner violence or control issues are present, the mental health professional can be a key part in helping the parties move forward.  Some people prefer this route as it enables them to face their abuser while helping them appropriately deal with trauma.  This can be particularly helpful in cases where the parties must still co-parent with each other moving forward.

Should you be interested in taking a collaborative approach to your separation or divorce, Curtis Clavelle, the writer of this article, is a collaboratively-certified lawyer and would be happy to discuss the process more: c.clavelle@rslaw.com or 306-933-1341.

Mediation:

This process is for those who would like a neutral third party to help them come to an agreement.  You may choose to also engage a lawyer to help you through the process.  The mediator is a trained professional whose role it is to help the parties communicate with each other more effectively, recognize what their needs are, and help them reach solutions that meet these needs, without taking sides.

This process generally saves time and money as compared to going through the traditional court approach and results in decisions that work well for the parties, since they are ultimately the ones making the decision rather than having a judge make it for them.  Just like the collaborative approach, mediation can also help parties learn how to work with one another post-separation, which can be especially helpful when they must co-parent moving forward. 

If you are interested in using a mediator to resolve your family law matters, Darlene Wingerak of Robertson Stromberg LLP is a mediator experienced in family mediations and she would be happy to discuss the process more: d.wingerak@rslaw.com or 306-933-1392.

Arbitration:

 

In this process, a family arbitrator essentially plays the role of a judge.  The arbitrator hears from both sides and makes a binding decision in order to resolve your family law matters outside of court.  Family arbitrators are lawyers with at least 10 years of experience in family law and have taken training in arbitration, decision-making, and family violence. 

The arbitration process offers quicker decisions than a court process and generally saves the parties money.  This process is well-suited to those who want a third party to make a decision for them, without the delays and formalities associated with the court process.

This is different than the collaborative process and mediation since you are asking another person to make a decision for you, rather than working with the other party to come to a resolution.  However, sometimes arbitrators use a combination of methods in reaching their decision, including negotiation and/or mediation.  You and the other party agree ahead of time how you want the arbitration to proceed.  For example, you could agree that lawyers will not be present, or that you will only submit written materials to the arbitrator rather than giving oral testimony. 

If you are interested in using a family arbitrator to resolve your family law matters, Tiffany Paulsen, Q.C., of Robertson Stromberg LLP is a certified family arbitrator and she would be happy to discuss the process more: t.paulsen@rslaw.com or 306-933-1317.

For more information, please contact:

 

Curtis P. Clavelle

306.933.1341

Email: c.clavelle@rslaw.com

 

Darlene N. Wingerak

306.933.1392

Email: d.wingerak@rslaw.com

 

Tiffany M. Paulsen, Q.C.

306.933.1317

Email: t.paulsen@rslaw.com

Lawyers Darlene N Wingerak