Welcome readers! I’m excited to be writing a regular column again, and hope you will find value in reading each week. For those of you who don’t know me, I am a family lawyer, mediator and divorce coach in Huntsville Ontario, where I have practiced since 1997.
Today, I just want to introduce myself to you, and give you an idea of what you can expect from my column. Call me crazy, but I have always been passionate about family law, which I attribute to my own experiences growing up. Even as a young person, I experienced that some families separated “well”, while others caused damage to each other and to their children. In choosing family law as my career, I hoped to be able to encourage clients to choose to “separate well”.
When I first began my practice in Muskoka, I was shocked at the percentage of clients who had already started a court case prior to coming to see me or who wished to proceed with court, regardless of my advice. I recall that on my busiest day at family court I had 19 files, and although that was unusual, it was normal to have many clients on any given court date. Over time, I just didn’t feel good about my work, no matter what the outcome. The reality of living in a small town is that the effects of hostile separations cannot be ignored. I watched kids who had been the subject of custody battles growing into troubled teens, and the financial stress of litigation on clients was obvious.
My feeling of dissatisfaction drove me to consider mediation as an alternative as it was becoming quite mainstream in other areas of the province. The decision to invest the time to become an accredited family mediator has been life-changing for me, and I hope for many of those I see. It is an efficient process both in time and cost, and I am able to assist parents in learning to communicate about children in a healthy way. I recognize it isn’t for everyone as it takes two participants who are willing to sit at a table with a neutral third party, be open to seeing things in a different way, exploring alternatives, and discovering interests while acknowledging their starting positions. It’s a place to craft a more positive future for everyone, and if children are involved, it is very child focused. I love it!
In 2015, following the death of my husband Mark, and realizing how short life really is, I chose to limit my family practice to include mediation, negotiating agreements and divorce coaching. I no longer take matters that are proceeding to Court and make referrals for those who do require that service. With this column, I hope to provide you with family law information, the oddities of family law, important cases that have been decided, new legislation being made, mediation information, information about wills, and of course, how we can make things better for children at home. I look forward to exploring these and many other topics with you every Thursday.