Reasonable Expectations for your Family Law File

Family Lawyer | February 8, 2023 | Written by Crystal Arbour

A good lawyer-client relationship is all about managing expectations. These are three key areas where it is critical that you know what the reasonable expectations are for your family law file.

Expectations of Time

It can take years to bring a family law matter to conclusion. Factors which affect this timeframe may include:

  • Your, and your spouse or co-parent’s, frankness and cooperation in disclosing information and producing supporting documentation;
  • The number of interim and/or urgent applications;
  • The number of parties involved, including blended families, grandparents, etc.;
  • The degree of hostility between the parties;
  • The need for appraisals including real estate, businesses and pensions;
  • The wait for available court dates and the possibility that the court may postpone your case to a later date; and
  • The availability of legal counsel or witnesses.

Depending on the cause of delay, despite the best of intentions and effort, your family lawyer may have little or no ability to control how quickly your matter is resolved. It’s best to start with a realistic expectation of how long the process can take.

Expectations of Outcomes

If it’s true that the best compromises in life send both parties away unhappy, it may be even more so in such an emotionally-charged setting as family law. Many litigants start off the process expecting a comprehensive victory because they are certain that they’re being wronged. Of course there are at least two sides to every story, and you may be surprised by the standards set by legislation and case law in balancing those sides.

It is extremely uncommon for anyone to escape the basic assumptions of fair financial support, co-parenting, and division of family assets which underpin the family law system.

If you wish to avoid a protracted (and expensive) court file, you will need to put aside your preconceptions and receive your lawyer’s advice with an open mind. Your family lawyer has probably seen it all before, and a good one will leverage that experience to guide you to the best available outcome – it just might not be the outcome you were hoping for.

Expectations of Our Partnership  

The most successful lawyer-client relationships are based on collaboration and trust. Your family lawyer may not tell you exactly what you want to hear, but their value is in being your guide and advocate in a system they understand much better than you do. Your job is to be completely open, forthcoming, and honest so that your lawyer can gather a complete understanding of the circumstances; and then to trust that your lawyer will listen to you, evaluate your case and give you advice and options with clear expectations of risk and reward.

© Linley Welwood LLP. The contents of this article do not constitute legal advice. Readers should seek legal advice in relation to their own specific circumstances.

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