Questions to ask a Collaborative Divorce Lawyer

Divorces are never easy but the process doesn’t have to be ugly either. Many couples are choosing to proceed with a collaborative divorce which is a peaceful resolution process aimed at keeping the process civil while avoiding litigation and eliminating the stress, nastiness and high costs associated to a traditional divorce proceeding.

If you are considering a collaborative divorce, here are some very important questions you should ask to ensure you are choosing a lawyer that is right for you.

  1. Is the lawyer you are considering hiring familiar with a mutual divorce? While many lawyers have a lot of experience in the courtroom, that is not the same as handling a collaborative divorce. You have to make sure that they have the hands-on experience and knowledge necessary for this type of divorce and that both the lawyers being hired understand and agree that they will not be filing any court motions.
  2. Does the lawyer have experience dealing with divorces that include children? When children are involved, their well-being and happiness is a top priority so the lawyer should have the appropriate experience to deal with this complicated and very important matter.
  3. What does your gut tell you? A lot of people will offer you their opinion and advice, but remember that you are the one going through the divorce and that every case is unique. You will know deep down if the lawyer you are planning on working with is the right one for you and your family. Always trust your instincts!
  4. How much time can I spend with my lawyer? The answer to this is very simple; as much time as you need. A good lawyer will do everything they can in order for the client to gain their trust. Divorces are stressful and can be uncomfortable so you need to make sure you are working with someone that makes you feel comfortable when discussing extremely personal matters like your finances and concerns regarding your children.
  5. What happens if things get ugly and no agreement can be reached? This is a very important question to ask because as much as one can hope for the best, things don’t always work out perfectly. You should be aware right from the very beginning what the process is if things don’t go as planned. Many lawyers are unable to stay on the case and represent the client if the divorce changes from a collaborative one and has to go to court.

These are some of the questions to consider when choosing a lawyer to represent you. Clean Divorce is a great firm that specializes in collaborative divorce, legal separation agreements and divorce mediation. Call Rahul Aggarwal today and have an experienced lawyer answer all of your questions and ensure a divorce process that is stress-free!

How You Can Save Money with Collaborative Divorce

Ending a relationship can be a rather emotional and tough decision. After all, no one chooses to separate or divorce unless the relationship has become unbearable. Some separating couples are able simply come to terms, “shake hands”, and walk away; most cannot. If you do not have children or property, the process is much easier. However, when there are kids and assets/debts involved, generally the process gets more complicated. Then there are some cases, where the parties have high conflict and can’t agree on parenting time, division or assets/debts etc. Just because your issues are complicated or you have high conflict, does not mean you spend your life-savings in litigation.

A growing number of separating couples these days use Collaborative Divorce. In Collaborative Divorce, each party would have their own highly trained certified Collaborative lawyer to represent them. Both parties and their Collaborative lawyers sign a participation agreement giving their commitment not to go to court. The parties and their Collaboratively trained lawyers attend 4-Way meeting (2 parties and 2 lawyers) and try to resolve all outstanding issues between the parties. Most separating parties go through more than one of these meetings.

The main focus during these meetings is to have interest-based negotiations rather than positional negotiation. The parties and their Collaborative lawyers, during these meetings, can also determine whether they need any parenting counsellors for their children, divorce coaches for themselves, financial experts, etc. Any decisions are done by joint agreement of both parties. 96% of the couples choosing the Collaborative process, successfully end the process with a fully signed separation agreement in place.

Collaborative Divorce eases the emotional and financial challenges during a separation. Typically, Collaborative Divorce helps you save tens of thousands of dollars compared to litigation. If you choose the Collaborative process, your lawyer will not have to appear in multiple court appearances, prepare and review documents and evidence for court hearings and simply wait in court for your matter to be heard. Moreover, you can eliminate the emotional trauma of participating in conflicts, which is a huge part of any litigation proceeding. Divorce Coaches, in a Collaborative Divorce can help you to manage the conflict properly, which can otherwise bog you down for months or years at the expense of your relationships, employment, mental health, finances, etc.

Whether your separation or divorce costs you your life-savings depends on whether you have a Collaborative Divorce or not. If you are going through separation or divorce and need more information on Collaborative Divorce or need a Collaborative Divorce lawyer, contact Rahul Aggarwal at Clean Divorce in Vancouver for a FREE 20-minute initial consultation.

 

 

List of Initial Divorce To-Dos

Separation or Divorce is complicated. It can affect you in legally, financially and emotionally. Dividing property that a couple has acquired throughout their marriage can be one of the most contentious parts of a divorce or separation. Your divorce lawyer can help ease some of your financial and legal stresses by advocating for your interests.

Lawyers would often need a number of documents from you so they could provide you proper legal advice. It would save you time and legal fees if you are able to gather some documents mentioned below before meeting with your divorce lawyer. Being organized will not only save you money, it will also give your family lawyer a useful overview of the assets or debts likely at issue. The more information you give your lawyer, the better they can protect your needs and interests.

The following is a list of documents you should gather before meeting with divorce lawyer; however, given your circumstances your divorce lawyer may require additional documents:

Checklist of Documents to Gather for Your Divorce Lawyer

  • Income Tax Returns for the past three years. Sometimes these are also referred to as T1 General(s)
  • Notices of Assessment for the past three years
  • Business Income Tax Returns for the past three years. Sometimes these are also referred to as T2 General(s)
  • Proof of your current income (latest pay stub)
  • Proof of your spouse’s current income, if available
  • Latest bank statements for all your (and your spouse’s, if available) accounts
  • Latest statements for your (and your spouse’s, if available) mortgage account, credit cards and any other loans
  • Your (and your spouse’s, if available) pension statement(s)
  • RRSP, TFSA, or other Stock account statements
  • Property Assessment statements from the City
  • Monthly budget worksheet, if any
  • Life insurance policy(ies) statement(s)
  • Health insurance policy statement(s)
  • Personal property appraisals, if available
  • Real property appraisals, if available

 

If applicable

 

  • Prenuptial or cohabitation/marriage agreement that might have been signed during or before the relation
  • Documents regarding Family Trusts
  • List and proof of property owned by either party before cohabitation
  • List of property acquired by each spouse individually by gift or inheritance during the relationship
  • List of contents inside safety deposit boxes
  • Living Wills
  • Advance Health Care Directives

 

Every situation is different. Couples enter and leave relationships due to different circumstances and with different assets/debts. To ensure no assets or debts are overlooked, you should always have an open and frank discussion with your family lawyer regarding all of the assets and debts you and your spouse own.

Starting the Separation or Divorce Process

You may feel overwhelmed by all of the steps required if you are just beginning the divorce process. If you have children, the process can also be much more emotionally challenging. If you feel overwhelmed by your situation, rest assured, you are not alone and what you are experiencing is normal. Your family lawyer can guide you step by step on how to proceed in order to protect yourself, your child(ren) and maintain the sensitive family relationships.

 

If you or your loved one is going through separation or divorce, contact Rahul Aggarwal at Clean Divorce in Vancouver for a FREE 20-minute initial consultation.

Divorce With Minimal Stress – Choose Mediation

When people decide that they are going to get divorced, some just want to get it over with as fast as possible, and others are more motivated to save as much money as possible. Some couples can barely stand to be in the same room as each other, and others are able to remain friendly.  Some couples have children,  and others don’t.  Every situation is different.

It is often perceived that divorce has to be a battleground, with one of the two people coming out as the “winner”.  Fortunately, it doesn’t have to be always be seen as a competition.  If people want to resolve things peacefully and amicably, they can do so via mediation.

Mediation is becoming much more commonplace among divorcing couples.  Here’s why:

  • More opportunity to speak and be heard
  • Resolve issues via communication vs. fighting
  • Stay out of court and keep your divorce matters private
  • Children are protected from excessive conflict
  • Greater flexibility as to when and how you will meet – you could even conveniently have conference calls or Skype
  • Avoid costs of litigation
  • Save time
  • More flexibility to decide on the terms of the divorce settlement – you control the outcome
  • Connections to other important contacts such as divorce coaches, financial specialists, and child psychologists
  • More effective co-parenting after the divorce
  • Ability to consult with mediator in the event that you need them in the future, who knows your history

If this sounds like the perfect solution for your situation, and something you want to explore further, contact Rahul at Clean Divorce in New Westminster (serving the Lower Mainland) for a FREE 20-minute initial consultation.

 

Handling Child Custody Issues During Summer Holidays

Does the thought of handling child custody or parenting issues during the summer holidays make you nervous?  Well, you aren’t alone.

Summer vacation is usually the most anticipated time of year for kids, but it can be quite a stressful time for parents – especially parents who are separated or divorced.  This is because the regular routine is no longer being followed, childcare needs to be arranged, kids participate in summer activities, and families go travelling. This is another reason why it is helpful to have everything regarding summer schedules outlined in a parenting plan.  However, things may come up that don’t fit perfectly within the plan, so they still need to be worked out between the parents.

Here are 3 key things to keep top of mind when it comes to custody issues during summer vacation:

  1. Always ask yourself “What is the best situation for the children?”

Going back and forth between homes and travelling long distances can really take a toll on kids during a regular week.  Then, when you add in the extra free time and inconvenience that comes along with summer holidays, the stress and anxiety can really intensify.  For example, taking your kids on a one month vacation may sound like a great idea, but how will that affect your children?  They would be away from one parent for a great length of time, not be in familiar surroundings, miss out on summer activities, and be away from their friends.  Is that truly a “vacation”?  Kids need to enjoy their break away from a long school year too.

  1. Consider the relationship with your ex when planning.

Some parents get along fine after a separation or divorce.  This tends to make planning and organizing much easier and less strenuous on everyone involved. Unfortunately, not everyone has this luxury.

If you have a relationship that involves a lot of conflict during the regular school year, planning for the summer can be just as challenging…if not more.  These are the types of situations where a parenting plan is extremely beneficial.

If you don’t have a formal parenting plan worked out, you should still get together with each other, and ideally, with the help of a family mediator.  You will want to determine what will happen over the summer with regard to custody, vacations away, activities (camp, sports), etc.  Most importantly, you need to decide how everything will be communicated to each other – especially any changes that may arise that veer off from your negotiations.

  1. Plan well in advance.

Planning for the summer holidays cannot be done last minute.  This needs to be done as soon as possible, especially since the majority of separated and divorced parents have full-time jobs. Also, requests for vacation need to be made well in advance so parents can coordinate to take time off when the other person will be in town.

You may also need to make childcare arrangements, depending on the ages of the children. Relatives may be planning to visit that you need to schedule around too.  You will also need to pick activities that are feasible in terms of being able to get them there and also pick them up…and ensure they don’t collide too much with any travel plans.  Older children may make summer plans with friends, and they would also need to sit down with a parent to fit those plans into a schedule that works for the whole family.

Planning always makes things go much more smoothly!  It’s always better (and less stressful) to be proactive vs. reactive.  Sure, things will always come up that you can’t plan for, but planning as much as possible will make life much easier.

Consult a family mediator for help in setting up a formal parenting plan, or to negotiate how you will plan out the summer schedules, and everything that comes along with that.  You will have a much more relaxing July and August if you go this route.

For family mediation in New Westminster, Vancouver & area, call Rahul for a FREE 20-minute initial consultation.

 

 

 

 

5 Essential Pieces for Successful Co-Parenting After Separation & Divorce

Co-parenting has become a much more common term in recent years, compared to the “sole custody” in which the mother has traditionally maintained full responsibility for the children.  Co-parenting has a positive effect on children because it encourages fathers to have an equal (or as equal as possible) role in their children’s lives.  It also makes it easier for working mothers to maintain full-time employment, which is often necessary to pay the bills and support the family.

To succeed in co-parenting, there has to be full co-operation from the onset of the separation or divorce. A parenting agreement should be created to ensure that all parties know what is expected of them, and how decisions will be made ongoing.

The 5 essential pieces to make co-parenting successful are:

1. Live Within Close Proximity
If there is too much distance between the mother’s and father’s residence, it will be very challenging to properly co-parent.  Both parties should be close enough to the children’s school, activities, and friends, so that it doesn’t cause disruption or added stress.

2. Efficient Scheduling
The best schedule will minimize the number of times children have to go back and forth between homes, yet still provide adequate time with each parent.  Due to job demands, one parent may have to take on more than the other parent, but the goal should be to be as equal as possible keeping the best interest of the children in mind. This also allows for each parent to maintain their own social life.  Special occasions and holidays also need to be taken into consideration.

3. Respect for Each Other’s Parenting Styles
It’s rare for people to have the exact same parenting styles, so parents have to respect each other’s decisions, whether they completely agree with them or not.  This could include discipline, food choices, bedtimes, what they can watch on television, etc.  Unless there is a serious risk to the child, parents must resist the urge to criticize the other.  If something is not appropriate, this should be discussed among the parents when the children are not around. Appear as a team.

4. Acceptance of Each Other’s New Love Interests
After a separation or divorce, even if it ended on very bad terms, it can still be hard for one to accept that their former spouse has moved on and started dating or even plan to get remarried.  Parents need to refrain from putting down the new partner in front of the kids to ensure that they don’t feel like they have to pick sides.  It can create unnecessary awkwardness and anxiety, and no one needs to be placed under more stress in an already stressful situation.

5. Solid Conflict Resolution Skills
Parents need to be able to solve issues effectively and calmly.  It is a very good idea to have a mediation clause in the separation agreement, so when a problem arises, they can have someone to help them resolve it and move on.  Being able to constructively manage disputes is often a “make it or break it” in terms of a successful co-parenting arrangement.

Do you need to talk to a mediator to assist with your co-parenting plan ? Call Rahul.  He helps clients in Vancouver, New Westminster, Burnaby, Coquitlam, Richmond, Surrey, and area.

What to Do When a Friend is Divorcing

If you have experienced separation or divorce, you know firsthand how painful and overwhelming it can be.  Even if it was a terrible situation, it doesn’t necessarily make it easier to move forward – you still have to go through the healing process and adjust to life without your spouse.

Do you know how you would handle it if your friend told you that they are getting a divorce?

This is not a time for you to give your two cents, put the other person down, or pick sides.  Nor should it be a time when you put the focus on you and share your story. No two separations or divorces are the same. Also,  remember that a breakup that you may have recently experienced is not equivalent to a divorce where lawyers have to get involved and issues like child custody may need to be addressed.

You should simply support your friend by being a good listener. Understand that they will likely be unable to have full control of their emotions at this time as well – possibly getting angry or very upset at the drop of a hat.  This is a time when you have to be extra sensitive to their feelings.  Don’t take  their reactions personally.

Of course you can give advice if asked – but be sure that it is positive, constructive, and empathetic advice, delivered in a gentle and non-judgmental way. Ensure that they know you will be there for them when they need you, but if they do call on you, make sure that you are truly there for them.  Real friends are there to support each other through these types of difficult life transitions.

It is important to respect one’s privacy. Don’t drill them for answers just to fulfill your curiosity.  If they share something with you, keep it to yourself.  Having their trust betrayed at such a vulnerable time could amplify things immensely.

Staying busy is a great way to help people cope and getting out with friends is a good way to start moving on with life – so be sure to invite them out and include them in your plans.  Even if they say they are not interested in hanging out, keep inviting them – just having an invite from someone can make a person feel better and supported.  It will also make them feel good to know that they have people to spend time with when they are ready to do so.

The bottom line – you should check on your friend often and make sure that they are okay.  Offer help when needed.  When someone is going through a hard time, the smallest gesture of kindness can make a world of difference.

 

How to Help Kids Cope with the Holidays After Separation or Divorce

Getting through the holidays as a separated or divorced couple is difficult.  What makes this even more difficult is when children are involved. Divorce can be particularly hard on kids because they have to deal with two houses, two schedules, two sides of the family, or perhaps even blended families or new relationships.  People often say that kids are resilient and will be able to bounce back from situations like this quickly.  This is often said so that the parties involved feel better, but in many cases, this cannot be further from the truth. If you and your ex are having a difficult time, it is that much harder for a child.

It is crucial that you and your ex come together to develop a plan to ease the anxiety of the holiday season on your children. Ask yourself “What is truly best for the kids?” Put aside your differences and put forth 100% effort into co-parenting. Your kids will pick up on the attitude that you have towards your ex.  Showing them that you can be amicable will give them the hope that mom and dad can still be friends.

Decisions that You and Your Ex Will Be Faced with Include:

  • How much time will be spent with each parent?
  • Who will spend Christmas Eve / Christmas Day / Boxing Day / New Year’s etc. with the children?
  • Who will be buying which gifts? When will the gifts be given? Will you take your child shopping to buy a gift for your ex, and vice versa?
  • If one parent wants to leave town for the holidays, will the children accompany them?
  • How much time will the child be able to spend with friends over the holidays? (This can be especially important for older children, as time with friends can act as a great stress reliever.)

These are not the types of decisions that should be “played by ear”.  It is also a good idea to not over-do it during the holidays with visiting too many friend and family homes.  Less busy = less stress.  Instead, focus more on strengthening the relationships that you have with your children and make them feel secure.

It’s important to sit down together with your children to discuss the holiday schedule.  Emphasize that it will still be a joyous time – it will just be different.  This way, children don’t have to feel guilty for being happy when they are with one parent and not the other.  Ask them how they feel about what you have decided.  Be welcoming to their feelings, concerns, and suggestions.

Anticipate that they will have a variety of emotions.  It will help a lot if you and your ex maintain a unified front and reassure them of your love for them.  It is okay to express to them that you are sad as well because you understand that divorce is very painful.

In some cases, you and your ex may get along well enough to spend the holidays together. This can really help the kids when there is only one family gathering to attend.  However, should there be the slightest risk of conflict, this should be avoided.  You would also want to be clear that just because mom and dad are spending the holidays together, this does not mean that they are staying together. You want to avoid giving children any sense of false hope.

Find ways to replace the happy times of past holidays with new memories.  Most importantly, kids need to feel that life will go on and everything will be okay. Plus, if this is the first year after a separation or divorce, it will make subsequent years that much easier to cope with if handled well this time around.

Questions about how professionals can help separated or divorced clients get through the holidays in peace? Contact Rahul at Clean Divorce – serving clients in Vancouver, New Westminster, and surrounding areas.

8 Ways to Get Through the Holidays After Separation and Divorce

To many, the holidays are a very stressful time of year.  Add divorce into the equation and it can become a time that some people dread and want to avoid altogether.  After a separation or divorce, the holidays can serve as a constant reminder of happier times and amplify the loneliness and sadness that one may be feeling.

Here are some ways in which you may be able to relieve some of this holiday anxiety:

(1) Plan a Vacation – This may be the perfect time to get away without having painful reminders close by.  It is usually much easier to take time off from work during the holiday season. A vacation can recharge you, enable you to have new experiences, and meet new people.  It may just help you gain a better perspective of your situation once you remove yourself from your everyday surroundings.

(2) Set Goals – Make a list of things you want to accomplish over the holidays while you have more free time.  Keeping busy is a great way to keep your mind off of your troubles, and can also give you a sense of accomplishment when you complete the tasks on your to-do list.  You may have been putting some things off, and this can be the ideal time to take things off your plate and feel less stressed.

(3) Schedule “Me Time” – The importance of self-care cannot be emphasized enough. What are your favorite activities to do for relaxation?  Things like going to the spa, seeing a movie, taking up a new creative hobby, and reading a good book (all without your cell phone on) can help you relax and rejuvenate.

(4) Exercise – Even if you don’t feel like you have the energy to even think about going to the gym or taking a fitness class, it can do wonders for your mental and physical health. It is a great way to boost your confidence too!

(5) Eat Healthy & Avoid Alcohol – Eating healthy is not only great for your body, but it will enable you to get results much quicker from your time at the gym.  During the holidays, it is so easy to over-indulge, which can lead to weight gain and make you feel sluggish. And unless you can limit your drinking to a glass of wine, it’s probably best to avoid it altogether, as this can accentuate depression and create more problems.

(6) Put Things in Perspective – You are not the only person going through a separation or divorce, even though it may feel like that.  Approximately 40% of Canadian marriages end in divorce, so you are definitely not alone.  You still have so much life ahead of you and this pain is temporary. Making a list of everything you have to be grateful for will help get you in a positive mindset. Even though relationships end – remember that new ones begin!

(7) Get Support from Friends and Family – Your friends and family love you and will be understanding if you are not quite yourself during this time. They will also want to support you, but they may not know how best to do so.  Communicate with them as to what you need from them and how they may be able to help you.  You can also seek out support groups of other divorcees who are in the same boat as you and can relate to what you are going through.

(8) Create New Holiday Traditions – This is a great way to create new memories and make a fresh start.  Change is good!

Most importantly, know that there is a light at the end of the tunnel.  Your relationship has ended because it was not working for you anymore or serving your life in a positive way, so it can only get better from here.

It is also a great idea to seek professional help if you feel depressed and overwhelmed.  Therapy can provide you with unbiased support and skills to help you cope during the pain of separation and divorce and help you heal.

Considering divorce or already decided to proceed?  Call Rahul at Clean Divorce today! Serving clients in Vancouver, New Westminster, and area.

10 Reasons to Choose Mediation for Separation or Divorce

A family law mediator acts as a neutral party to help couples transition out of relationships in a healthy and peaceful way, without the stress of going to court. Experienced mediators help both parties see the viewpoint of the other, with the goal to reach an agreement that is best for everyone involved.

There are a number of factors that affect mediation for separation or divorce, including the complexity of the issues, whether children are involved, and the extent to which both spouses are motivated to seek a resolution. Mediators help couples resolve disputes regarding parenting time, child support, spousal support, the division of family property, etc.

In addition to keeping the situation fair and neutral, there are many benefits to hiring a mediator:

(1) Save time and avoid court delays – Compared to other forms of dispute resolution, mediation is very time effective. People are often surprised at how quickly a dispute can be resolved through hiring a skilled mediator. Court proceedings, for example, can potentially take years to conclude because the focus is on each spouse trying to prove their case (in terms of facts, fault, liability) to a judge. Mediation, on the other hand, is solely focused on settlement. Parties communicate directly with or without their lawyers. Plus, a qualified mediator is trained to resolve disputes quickly by keeping the parties focused and on track to expedite closure.

(2) Save money – Mediation is much more cost effective than a lawsuit. Mediation is handled out of court, so it bypasses the long and expensive court process. In mediation, there is only one mediator (one full-time professional) as opposed to two full-time lawyers trying to help the parties resolve their issues. Parties do not need to have full-time lawyers representing them throughout the process unless they want their lawyer(s) present at mediation. If the parties choose to attend mediation without their lawyers (which most people do), the mediator can help the parties resolve all their disputes, and the parties can then get independent legal advice from a lawyer of their choice.

(3) Protect assets – Mediation helps couples decide together what will happen to the family home, money, savings / investments, taxes, debts, etc. vs. having this dictated by a judge.

(4) Keep it confidential – Mediation happens in private. Unlike a public courtroom, no one usually sits in your mediation session except you or your lawyer. Information disclosed during mediation will not be revealed to anyone with very few exceptions. What happens in mediation is generally not admissible in court.

(5) Mediation improves communication and cooperation – As with all relationships, communication is key. With mediation, parties are more likely to openly discuss their views on the underlying dispute(s), which leads to mutually beneficial resolutions.

(6) Preserve relationships – In most cases, courts and litigation tends to bring out the worst in people, with both parties pointing fingers as to who did what. With mediation, there is a common goal of reaching an agreement vs. placing blame.

(7) Better flexibility for meeting times – As compared to litigation in court, both parties can agree on times to meet that won’t interfere with their work and other obligations.

(8) Better flexibility for parenting time – Parenting time can be agreed upon to best accommodate the schedules of both parties vs. having this decided upon in court.

(9) Less stress – When both parties have the goal of working together towards an amicable solution, there is less stress; you are in control over the outcome. Matters are discussed in a non-confrontation setting vs. arguing in a courtroom in an adversarial process. Also, knowing that your separation or divorce will be kept private also alleviates anxiety.

(10) Final say – Both parties have the final say as to what will happen – not a judge.

Should mediation happen to be unsuccessful, there is still an option to go to court.

To speak with a qualified mediator in Vancouver or New Westminster, call Rahul at Clean Divorce. He will be able to answer all of your questions regarding your options, rights, and how you can best protect yourself and your family when it comes to separating or divorce.