Top 10 Reasons


John Schuman, head of the family law group at Devry Smith Frank LLP (DSF), reviews the top 10 reasons to get a Toronto family law lawyer.

  1. Know whether your position is reasonable – Both in court and out of court in settlement discussions, if your position is not with-in the range of what is “reasonable”, it may get you nowhere. You will lose credibility before a judge. In settlement discussions, your opponent will ignore you. Family Law matters are often emotional; your emotions may cloud your judgement. A related point is that you need to know what facts and issues are important and which are not. For example, spousal infidelity probably has no bearing on child custody. Child abuse probably has no effect on property issues. Mixing up what is important and what is not can make everything take a lot longer.
  2. Know what to expect, what you are getting and what you are giving up. In negotiating or deciding on litigation strategy, you need to know what the possible outcomes are and whether you could do better using a different course of Action You may want to be generous, or you may to keep as much from your spouse as possible. Unless you speak to a lawyer, you will not know whether you really are getting a good deal that will last – whether you could do better or do worse.
  3. A marriage contract, cohabitation agreement or separation agreement may not be binding without a lawyer. If you are signing a contract, you probably want it to hold up and you want the court to enforce it. Judges usually ignore family law contracts if both parties did not have lawyers. Judges are usually suspicious if one party only saw a lawyer for a few hours to get an ILA Certificate. If you want an enforceable contract, have lawyers involved throughout the negotiations.
  4. Lawyers know the court rules. The court process is complicated. Judges have expectations about how things will be done in court and those expectations may be based on more than just the Family Law Rules. However, judges hold self-represented litigants to the same standard as lawyers. This can place self-represented litigants at a disadvantage.
  5. There may be options that you have not considered. Family Law lawyers see a lot of cases with a lot of resolutions and they see the application of the laws in a lot of different situations. A lawyer may have ideas about ways to resolve both the case and their client’s problems in ways that the parties have not thought about. A lawyer may also be able to ensure that an unusual resolution is respected and enforced by the cuts.
  6. Family Law Lawyers can help settle a case – and that saves money. Lawyers are professional negotiators. Family Law Lawyers represent individual people, not big business or corporations, so Family Law Lawyers know that the cost of the process is important. Family Law Lawyers have strategies to get their clients the best possible resolution at the lowest cost possible.
  7.  Family Law Lawyers let you get on with your life. A relationship breakdown can be disruptive to your life. Doing everything that is required for court, or even negotiating a settlement, can take up an astounding amount of time -and while you are working on it you have to think about your old relationship. A Family Law Lawyer can take over that work and the “emotional baggage” that goes along with it so you can look forward and plan your future rather than focussing on the past.
  8. If you are involved with a children’s aid society, you need a professional on your side. The children’s aid society has lots of professionals to help it – lawyers, social workers, psychologists, psychiatrists, doctors and others. The Society uses those professionals to get what i wants. You need a child protection professional on your side. A child protection lawyer can not only advocate for you in court , but help find other professionals to help you get what you want.
  9. The paperwork is important and it needs to be filled out correctly. Unlike on television, family court judges rely (heavily) on the paper that the parties file to make their decision. Except at trial, you don’t get tell your story by speaking to the judge. You tell it by writing it out on the correct court forms, serving it on the other party and filing it with the court ahead of time. Lawyers take courses not just on how to fill out the forms correctly, but how to write persuasively so the judge is sympathetic to their client even before that client walks into the courtroom.
  10.  You may end up paying for the other party’s lawyer! In Canada, the loser in a lawsuit pays some or all of the winner’s lawyer’s bill. If you sue and lose because you did not know what you were doing, the court will order you to pay for the other party’s lawyer. If that happens you have not saved any money by not getting a lawyer to help you – but the other party (with a lawyer) has saved a lot of money.

Don’t Just Take My Word For It.
Here is what other people say about hiring a lawyer:

CNN: The Pellicano brief: A Fool For a Client

Justice Harvey Brownstone, in his book Tug of War: “Any person who believes that he/she can navigate the court system as well as or better than a lawyer is seriously misguided, to say the least. If you retain only one message from this book, please let it be this one: get a lawyer!”

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