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The science of separation: local lawyer gives free family law lessons

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Did you know there is an entire field of licensed mental health practitioners who specialize in guiding families through the process of divorce?

They're aptly called divorce coaches and it's one of the many family law services Vivienne Beisel has noticed the public is unaware of. In fact, the service she offers seems to be a mystery to most.

A practicing lawyer, mediator, arbitrator and adjudicator, Beisel gets almost all of her clients through referral because, as she notes, people don't know there are family law alternatives to litigation.

"There are options available for dispute resolution that people are not aware — some of this is even free — and they just aren't aware that it's out there," she says. "So I thought I would see if there's an interest and if there is, try and package it in a way that makes it easy for people."

That package will be delivered by way of a four-part seminar at the TNRD Library, starting tonight (Jan. 10) at 6 p.m. Every other Thursday night until Feb. 21, she will be tackling different lessons about family law, from what other resolutions are available to how to prepare one's self for disputes. 

"I feel like I'm repeating myself all the time about basic education and so I thought, why not offer a seminar that is everything you would want your clients to know coming into a family conflict," says Beisel. "A lot of that education can be done in advance, but it's not packaged up neatly. You could go online and do the research yourself, but it's kind of hidden away. It's quite an undertaking to educate one's self."

Among the lessons she hopes to get across tonight is the cost of taking family matters to court versus hashing them out in other areas. 

Based on numbers from Canadian Lawyer Magazine's 2018 Legal Fees Survey, a two-day trial costs on average over $31,000. Beisel says hiring a mediator for two days runs between $3,000 and $5,000 while negotiation is even cheaper as you do everything yourself, outside of filing fees or getting a lawyer to look over an agreement.

"It's rare for things to go all the way to trial. Only about five per cent of family matters go to trial," she says. "But still, it's very expensive. I've seen people spend $50,000 on fees. It costs money to fight and if people are really committed to fighting, you can dissipate all of your assets on fighting. It's kind of scary."

Among less expensive local solutions, Beisel notes in certain situations the Kamloops Family Justice Centre offers free mediation to low-income families (they don't handle divorce cases though). 

The seminar won't be all numbers and figures. Beisel knows that family law matters are an emotional ordeal, citing that on the Holmes-Rahe Life Stress Inventory, divorce and separation are the second most stressful events to the death of a spouse.

"Preparing yourself emotionally means looking at where you are in the grief process and making sure you have a support system or a team that can help you through," she says. "It's also preparing to co-parent and organizing one's time and how to support the children, because if it's stressful for you, you can bet that it's stressful for the children as well. So how do you support the children and yourself? It's kind of a psychological, financial and practical (seminar)."

Tonight they will cover alternative dispute resolution for separating couples, Jan. 24 is how to prepare for divorce and separation, Feb. 7 is co-parenting and creative problem solving and closing things out Feb. 21 will be figuring out spousal and child support after divorce and separation.

Registration is required beforehand. Beisel says if people cannot attend the seminars, to contact the library and if there is enough demand, she will repeat the lessons at another date.

For more information, visit the library website.


Eric Thompson

About the Author: Eric Thompson

It's 2019 and Eric Thompson still gets paid to write about news. What a world we live in!
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