Using a Family Lawyer Effectively
At Sealy Cornish Coulthard, we understand you want to use the money you invest in legal services as effectively as possible. The following pointers will help you make the best use of your legal dollars:
- Assemble your financial information. You will need to locate at least three years of tax returns and Notices of Assessment (personal and corporate if you control a business). Accumulate three recent pay stubs and information on your year-to-date income. Collect information on all sources of income including pension payments, government payments (HST rebate, child tax benefit, CPP, EI, etc)
- Start tracking your budget. What are you monthly expenditures? If you anticipate moving, assemble information regarding the cost of the type of accommodation you would like to have. Keep receipts. It is especially important to have receipts regarding children’s activities.
- Assemble documentation regarding your assets and debts. We will be seeking separation-date and current values for everything owned by you and by your spouse or partner: your properties, your vehicles, your savings (RRSPs, RESPs, bank accounts, investment accounts, stocks and bonds, pensions, air miles and aeroplan points, money owing to you, shareholder loans, income tax refunds, etc.). We will also be seeking information regarding your debts (mortgages, lines of credit, vehicle and other loans, income tax owing, credit card balances, money due to a corporation, RRSP loans).
- Write down your questions in advance and take notes regarding the answers. Or ask your questions in an e-mail. It is generally more time-effective (and therefore more cost effective) to ask a series of questions during one longer phone, in-person or e-mail contact than to ask questions one at a time, so batch your questions when you can.
- Since you will receive copies of all materials we generate or receive, you should create your own file regarding your matter. We are able to scan and send everything electronically so let us know if you would prefer this option or if you prefer to receive paper documentation. We create subfiles for each person’s financial materials, another subfile for documentation and court papers, a subfile for legal bills and a subfile for correspondence; you may want to use this system.
- Contact your lawyer by e-mail or by setting up a telephone or in-person appointment with the appropriate paralegal. Simply leaving a phone message can lead to days of phone tag. The paralegal will ensure time is reserved in the lawyer’s schedule for you alone.
- Keep notes of what is going on. These will be a useful reference for you so that you can give specific examples of incidents which cause you concern as negotiations unfold. This will also be helpful if it is necessary to prepare an affidavit (a sworn statement which sets out facts you want the Judge to know), to participate in discoveries (where you are put under oath and asked questions) or to answer interrogatories (questions which you must answer in writing).
- Become informed about the separation process and parenting after separation. Review our list of useful internet resources, or browse our reading list– many titles are available at the library.