Divorce and Separation Process Options
Options for resolving separation agreements
Shirley works tirelessly to reduce the impact separation can have on you, your family and your children. With the ultimate goal of obtaining an out of court settlement tailored to your specific needs, Shirley often works with various financial and family professionals, including business valuators, real estate appraisers, tax accountants, social workers, parenting co-ordinators and others, to ensure your situation is resolved in the most informative and effective way.
Settling issues without the Courts saves time and money while minimizing emotional and financial stress. Staying out of the Court system means documentation exchanged and information revealed is kept confidential and is not available for public scrutiny, as are Court documents.
In this out-of-court settlement process, each spouse has their own collaboratively trained lawyer. There is a written commitment not to go to Court but rather to negotiate in good faith, with the end goal being:
- To minimize the destructiveness separation/divorce can have on the family
- Maximize the opportunity for a creative, durable and binding agreement that is tailored to your unique situation
Negotiations are done through a series of team meetings. The team may consist of the two spouses and their two lawyers. However, other professionals, including financial and family professionals, may be included from the outset or added during the negotiations.
By choosing this process, you are choosing professionals who are specifically trained and motivated to reach a settlement because they know this style of negotiation helps to reduce the emotional, financial and psychological toxicity of a divorce or separation. It also allows for considerable creativity in the least adversarial, most beneficial and respectful way, allowing you to move on with living your life.
In the event one or both spouses ultimately wish to go to Court; however, both spouses must get new lawyers.
For more information on Collaborative Practice, visit the Ontario Association of Collaborative Professionals at www.oacp.co.
Traditional Settlement Negotiation
Traditional settlement negotiation involves the lawyers of each spouse attempting to negotiate a settlement out of court. This process does not require either lawyer to have specific collaborative or mediation training.
If the negotiation is successful – the settlement – incorporated into a separation agreement – deals with issues that are relevant to the particular couple. Once the agreement is finalized and signed, it is a binding contract, and court is not necessary except to obtain the actual divorce order, which is the legal termination of the marriage.
If the negotiation is not successful, then the issues can either be dealt with via mediation and/or arbitration, or the couple will need to go to Court.
Mediation is the dispute resolution process in which one professional is hired by the couple to assist them in reaching an agreement on their specific issues. The mediator’s job is not to give legal advice but to be a conduit for settlement.
In mediation, each spouse must have his or her lawyer to provide independent legal advice with respect to the legal issues. A mediator may:
- Draft the agreement, leaving it to the lawyers of each spouse to finalize the specific wording.
- Alternatively, once the terms have been agreed to, one of the lawyers may proceed to draft the agreement, thus still leaving the “final touches” to be negotiated directly between the lawyers.
In the event an agreement cannot be reached with mediation, the outstanding issue(s) can either be dealt with through arbitration or through the Court system.
Options for when a separation agreement cannot be reached
Arbitration (Out-of-Court Option)
Arbitration is an out of Court process in which a senior lawyer acts as “Judge”, and is hired by the spouses to hear evidence and make binding decision(s). Each spouse has his or her own lawyer. The process does not occur in a courtroom, however, the Arbitrator’s decision can be appealed to a Court. The couple may choose the person who acted as mediator to proceed to be the Arbitrator, or a different person may be chosen to arbitrate. These are advantages and disadvantages to each scenario.
Litigation (Court Option)
Litigation involves the spouses proceeding to Court to have a Judge make a decision in their case. This is typically the route of last choice.
Frequently Asked Questions:
Divorce & Separation
Each spouse has his/her own collaboratively trained lawyer. There is a commitment not to go to court, and to negotiate in good faith. The main premise is to attempt to minimize the destruction separation/divorce can have on the family, and to maximize the opportunity for a creative and enduring agreement.
(What is) Arbitration
A senior lawyer acts as ‘judge’, and makes a decision based on oral testimony and other evidence. Each spouse has his/her own lawyer. This process does not occur in a courtroom, and is paid by the spouses. The decisions are binding but can be appealed to a court.
(What is) Mediation
One professional assists the couple to reach a separation agreement. The mediator is not there to give legal advice. Each spouse must have his/her lawyer to provide independent legal advice with respect to the legal issues.
(What is) Traditional Negotiation
The two lawyers attempt to negotiate a settlement, which if successful, is then incorporated into a separation agreement. If not successful, may end up in Court or an Arbitration. When there is motivation to settle out of court, this can be referred to as ‘Settlement Negotiation’.
(What is) Litigation
The spouses proceed to court to have a judge make a decision.
Shirley is smart, knowledgeable, no-nonsense, warm and approachable
Shirley took on my family law case after my previous lawyer had become a Judge. It had been a complicated and challenging negotiation as my ex and his lawyer were trying to ensure that ‘no stone was left unturned’, even though there was nothing under those stones! Shirley negotiated the final agreement to my very great satisfaction. She ensured that I was regularly informed and that I understood all the issues, and how the facts of my particular case related to the law. Shirley is smart, knowledgeable, no-nonsense, warm and approachable. I was very pleased with the result and felt heard and well taken care of. I highly recommend Shirley, you will be in good hands with her.
SC, Family Law Client, Toronto, Ontario
Shirley listened to our needs
We are a gay male Italian couple, and enlisted Shirley’s help with our surrogacy and egg donation journey. From the beginning, Shirley was knowledgeable, compassionate and diligent. She was available on our timetable, and guided us through the many legal issues and complications. Shirley listened to our needs and concerns with sincerity and made us feel secure and heard. We are very happy with her assistance and can attest that you will be in very good hands with her.
GC and SP, Fertility Clients, Italy
Thank you for your guidance
I cannot thank Shirley enough for her guidance and wisdom through the negotiation of my separation agreement. There were indeed times I was ready to ‘throw my hands up’, dig my heels in, and take it all to Court. Shirley helped to ground me, and wisely advised that this would not be at all helpful; I would risk losing a lot going to court rather than negotiating-not to mention the high tab it would involve. When I felt down, she helped me to see the ‘silver lining’ and truly encouraged me to ‘hang in there’. In the end, I had an agreement that dealt with all the issues that were important to me, in a way that made sense to me. Thank you, Shirley!
HE, Family Law Client, Toronto
Shirley has gone above and beyond...
We are a same sex married couple from Australia, who are now blessed with two beautiful babies born in Ontario via egg donation and surrogacy. From the outset, Shirley was there to guide us every step of the way. She is knowledgeable, available and sincerely interested in helping her clients work through the maze of international surrogacy and fertility arrangements. She was the first person we met in Canada when we began our journey, and assisted us all the way through. Shirley also managed to organize the paper work so we were able to leave Canada and return home within record time after the birth! She has gone ‘beyond and above’ for us in so many ways. We are still in touch with her and our daughters continually hail ‘agoo’ in thanks to her! We highly recommend Shirley and can attest that you will be in excellent hands with her helping you
Happy fathers, AS and JC (and our lovely twins!), Fertility Law Clients, Australia
I highly recommend Shirley!
Shirley took on my case after my previous lawyer had become a Judge. It had been a very complicated and challenging negotiation as my ex and his lawyer were trying to ensure that ‘no stone was left unturned’, even though there was nothing under those stones! Shirley negotiated the agreement to my very great satisfaction. She ensured that I was regularly informed and that I understood all the issues, and how the facts of my particular case related to the law. Shirley is smart, knowledgeable, no-nonsense, warm and approachable. I was very pleased with the result and felt heard and well taken care of. I highly recommend Shirley; you will be in excellent hands with her. “
SC, Family Law Client, Toronto, Ontario
Shirley helped me get through a very rough time
I hired Shirley on the recommendation of a friend of mine. The separation was not an easy time for me, and I needed someone strong, who, at the same time, could support me with sincerity and empathy. I was not disappointed. Shirley guided me with patience and understanding through the maze of issues involved in my case (not simple), and negotiated an agreement directly with my ex (also not simple) until the end, when he got a lawyer to review it. Her knowledge, experience and patience, plus how she dealt with my ex, helped get me through this very tough time. I cannot thank her enough and have recommended her numerous times since.
CR, Family Law Client, Toronto
I obtained the agreement I wanted!
I thank Shirley for her guidance, knowledge, and wisdom in settlement negotiations of my separation agreement. It was a difficult time for me, and Shirley helped me every step of the way. She made sure I felt heard, and that my goals and fears were acknowledged. It was important to me to maintain a positive relationship with my ex-husband throughout, and Shirley ensured that happened. Her patience, warmth, and experience helped to keep me grounded and focussed. I obtained the agreement I wanted, and my ex and I continue to co-parent our children with respect. A huge relief is an understatement!
SE, Family Law Client, Toronto
Shirley made this difficult process easy
Shirley Levitan BSc., LLB is phenomenal to work with. Shirley was highly recommended by one of my long-time clients as I was recently going through a divorce. Shirley made this difficult process easy, clear and had it completed fairly quickly. She took the time to explain and guide me through the negotiations, while delivering on everything she had promised. I would recommend Shirley Levitan BSc., LLB to anyone going through a divorce, as she is very knowledgeable and truly works for the best interest of her clients. She not only makes a difficult situation easy but makes herself available to answer any questions or concerns one may have. Shirley, I can’t thank you enough for your help and alleviating a lot of stress from my divorce. Thank You
PS, Family Law Client, Toronto
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