By Shannon LaFontaine LL.B.
When I first chose law as a profession, I told everyone I never intended to pursue a career in family law. During law school, I actively avoided anything to do with the subject. I had heard horror stories about how combative and volatile the area is, and how stressed and depressed family lawyers get. So how did I end up choosing to practice in the one area I vowed never to touch?
My interest in family law grew from my experience at a general law practice. I found myself drawn to the family law matters, and left conversations with clients with a sense of pride that I was able to give them peace of mind for one moment in their time of need. I joined the GZ family law team because I knew their vast array of knowledge and experience would be conducive to my growth and understanding of the practice.
The court process is not easy. But it is especially stressful to go through a process for something that stemmed out of love and affection. One may contemplate future legal proceedings when starting a business venture or signing a contract. Typically, divorce and custody battles are the furthest thing from one’s mind when planning a wedding or starting a family.
My goal as a family lawyer is to encourage more collaborative approaches to the separation and custody process. The courts are backlogged, and even more so due to Covid-19. Court is also expensive, time consuming, and stressful. But it doesn’t have to be. Encouraging clients to communicate, mediate, and settle their issues outside of court can relieve unnecessary stress and save everyone time and money.
I understand collaborative law is not always possible. However, in my time working in law, I have seen my fair share of combative parties and counsel who do nothing but exacerbate and prolong an already stressful and lengthy process. This is not in the best interest of anyone but the lawyers.
Right now, mediation is not mandatory, but parties who make it far in the litigation process do attend a Settlement Conference before a judge to try to sort out issues before trial. I hope to see the practice of family law continue its shift to a more collaborative approach.
Garfin Zeidenberg LLP
5255 Yonge Street, Suite 800
Toronto, Ontario M2N 6P4