Beware of Anyone Trying to Scam Through a Quick Deal!

As a lawyer who has practiced family law for over 20 years, I think what I hear the most from clients is “I just want this over with”. Most people want their case concluded so that they can move on. And the longer it drags on, the more stressful and chaotic their lives become. The danger is settling to quick and then regretting later.

When clients first separate, for most, it is the most stressful life event they will ever encounter. Their life has been turned upside down. In my experience, it takes several months at least before the dust begins to settle. If you are in the early stages, when you are angry and in emotional turmoil, do you really think you should be making major decisions that will affect the rest of your life and the lives of that of your children? Not if you don’t have to. Take some time to get your head around what has happened.

If your spouse is really pushing you to agree to a deal right after you separated – be careful. If they tell you not to take time to think it over that you should not seek legal or financial advice before you sign – be really careful. Whatever deal you agree to will effect your life and the life of your children for a long time. It is not something you should rush into just to “get it over with”. It’s a lot more time consuming and expensive to try to correct a bad deal as oppose to getting it right the first time.

Realize from the outset that is your life and you should be calling the shots. Never throw your hands up in the air and expect a lawyer, a counsellor, a financial advisor, a whoever to just make decisions for you. Its your responsibility to understand the issues and the possible resolutions. Sit down and work through the issues until you understand them and then you will be able to make your own decisions. It is always better to make an informed decision, then to just languish. Often, there is no “right decision”.

You need to be able to come to the table with a clear head and a solid understanding of the issues. You need to have a realistic view of what you want on each issue. Most importantly, you need to be looking ahead, not motivated by anger and resentment. Then you will end up with a deal that is best for you and your children.



At What Age Does My Child Get To Decide Who They Want To Live With? Is It 12 Years Old?

One of the most common questions I am asked in a custody case is at what age does a child get to choose which parents they want to live with? In other words, at what age does a child get to pick one parent over the other?

I have practiced family law for 27 years and I have three  children of my own who are now ages 16, 18, and 20. Knowing that is my background, here is my answer.

In what world is it appropriate for an adult to want to delegate such a major life decision to a child? Many people believe when a child is 12, they can choose which parent they want to live with. At 12 years old that child is probably in grade six – junior elementary school. They are learning how to write a complete paragraph and how to multiply. It Is simply unfair to think that child has any real understanding of the issue you are asking them to decide. The responsibility should not be forced onto a child – they shouldn’t have to live with their decision of picking one parent over the other.

As an experienced social worker once told me, “children have a voice, not a choice.” Your case may get to the stage where a third party is hired to investigate and one of the things they will do is interview your children. Know that your child will never forget the details of what happened or how they were put into middle. It is not a step any parent should take lightly

Here are some realities you need to know:

  1. What the parenting schedule should be, should be worked out between the parents. Never put the responsibility to make that decision on a child.
  2. Stop trying to delegate a major parental decision to a child.
  3. Children have a “voice” but not a “choice”
  4. If your case is high acrimony, you are putting your children in a position where they will pick a side. That is a sad reality you see over and over in this type of law.
  5. Children in so many cases tell their parents what they think they want to hear. They see how their parents have turned on each other. They don’t want to be next. But be careful, you may be surprised what they say to a third party that is hired to find out what your child wants.

Children are entitled to a relationship with both parents. They should be able to get the best from both. Do your children a huge favour – get a schedule worked out that you can both live with. Present to them as a united front and stick to it. If you can do that, your children won’t have to pick a side.

In the end, with very few exceptions, your children will spend time with both parents. There are only seven days in a week. Sit down and figure out a reasonable way to divide up time. This issue is between you and your spouse. If you can, keep your children out of it.