No More Court, The New Divorce Normal
We recently sat down with Separation Specialist Lana Wickstrom, to talk about new laws coming into effect this fall in Saskatchewan which will impact divorce and separation processes in important ways. Read on for what you need to know about how these legislative changes will impact families and what the new “normal” will be when it comes to separation and divorce.
Refined: Can you give us an overview of the legislative changes?
Lana Wickstrom: The new laws coming into effect this fall in Saskatchewan will prevent families from accessing the court system, which intensifies and exacerbates conflict, unless they can first demonstrate that they have genuinely tried to work on their parenting, finance and property matters “out of court” with a qualified professional.
R: What do you think about this?
LW: All I can say is “finally.” Family law literature and litigation critics have long recognized the inability of the traditional court process to help separating families with this consuming transition. For just as long, professionals in the know have lamented the woeful inadequacy of only relying on legal knowledge to effectively help families move forward as co-parents as positively as possible. Changes to respond to this knowledge have been slow and without the necessary bite needed to improve the situation for separating families.
R: So, if someone is getting a divorce or separation, what can they expect?
LW: With these new laws, only professionals who have specified training directly related to the dynamics that exacerbate separations will be able to offer alternative dispute resolution services to families outside of court. These professionals aren’t restricted to lawyers, though. Even lawyers who want to offer these kinds of services will need additional training to qualify as a service provider under these new laws. People can expect to have options to consider that aren't restricted to lawyers or court process.
R: What are some of the different options then for families?
LW: There are actually a variety of services that families can choose from when confronted with separation or divorce. Usually, the goal of these services is to help families create a legally binding “separation agreement” that outlines how their parenting, finances and property matters will be handled going forward. Services that families can choose from include mediation, arbitration, collaborative processes, and for parenting matters only, parenting coordination.
R: Can you discuss what those options are?
LW: Mediation is where a qualified neutral professional assists both parents as they make their own well-informed decisions. Arbitration is where a qualified professional assists both parents as they make their own well-informed decisions, and in situations of impasse between parents, the arbitrator acts as a binding decision-maker. Collaborative process is where each separating spouse hires a specifically trained family law lawyer to “sit at the table” with them. Then, both parents and both lawyers transparently work together at group meetings towards informed decisions. Finally, parenting coordination is where a particularly trained professional decides on a variety of parenting-only issues when parents can't agree. All other options can include parenting, support and property issues.
R: That’s interesting. Overall, what impact do you think this will have moving forward?
LW: It’s my hope that these legislative changes will start the desperately needed pendulum swing for families experiencing separation and divorce so that the old warning of “you better lawyer up” gets replaced with, “I know a great mediator that can help you.”
If you or someone you love is contemplating, experiencing or still struggling with a separation or a divorce, contact Lana.
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