Transitions in our personal lives signal a new journey tumbling with emotion, stress, and at times overwhelming our daily lives. Families aren’t predictable. Alliances are dynamic and change over time. Emotional responses interrupt our brain’s natural ability to think clearly, analyze data, and make plans appropriate to the situation. Some of that emotional stress interrupts the ability to make tough decisions needed to progress forward whether to negotiate a prenuptial agreement or conclude the settlement terms of breakdown in the relationship. Decisions when families are blending stepchildren with new parents, businesses contemplating additional family owners, and residences changing from the accustomed neighbourhood to the unfamiliar. Add in a layer of confusing and complex legal issues like child support, shareholder agreements, and property ownership, and the need to seek advice from an experienced family law lawyer is apparent. 8 benefits of retaining a family law lawyer today Timeliness: You may have an end goal in mind but if you don’t act within the statutes of limitations it may be for nought. Preparedness: Understanding the underlying emotional responses giving rise to the current situation is the starting point. Whether there is a possibility of reconciliation or confirming that indeed the relationship is at its end is a question a lawyer is obligated to ask. Other steps before any negotiations are commenced include completing a factual investigation, thorough due diligence including comprehensive financial disclosure, and understanding all the relevant facets of an issue. That includes ensuring that ‘relationship residue’ doesn’t unduly colour the negotiation and deter the creation of a safe alliance, particularly where children and the family business may play a future role. Assessing readiness: Are you comfortable to start learning about legal rights and obligations? About stretching beyond rights-based discussions into creative options and away from being locked into one position? Family law lawyers keep abreast of changes in their field and work with related professionals in complementary fields of expertise to offer best practices and best advice. Advocating for your best interests: Advocacy involves providing you with ongoing independent, professional, and competent advice from your lawyer. It also requires active listening to your story to explaining opportunities and challenges you may face during negotiations to offering empathy and remaining trustworthy. Perspective and experience: Advice from a lawyer also adds value from a practical and contemporary lens. What needs to be done, how to do it, and how a decision taken today may require reconsideration in the future such as financial support arrangements. Roadmap: Determining which process is the best process for you: public or private; one voice or your voice, being the lead or being led, representing yourself or having a competent and efficient team supporting your needs. Advising you well in advance on next best steps in the big picture and reframing roadblocks as possible opportunities. Supportive decision making: You make the final decision. Peeling back the layers of an underlying issue can expose an unexpected way forward. Your lawyer will work with you to answer your questions, explain legal concepts, listen and help you secure your needs and develop your dreams. They will draft contractual terms or represent you in court or arbitration, assist with execution of the final settlement terms, ensure their enforceability, and future updating of documents, if necessary. Being self-aware: Discuss with your lawyer the role you want them to play in the resolution of your family law disputes. Are you seeking an aggressive lawyer to assist you to vindicate perceived transgressions against you or are you seeking a principled lawyer to promote your interests in private respectful negotiations? Your lawyer’s style may disrupt and delay final settlement or they may model constructive and dignified conduct leading to an effective and durable solution. Lorisa Stein is an experienced senior family law lawyer based in downtown Toronto, Ontario. She has utilized the collaborative method to help professionals and entrepreneurial families negotiate cohabitation agreements, marriage contracts, and separation agreements. To schedule a confidential consultation with Lorisa, contact her at www.LorisaStein.com, call her direct line at (416) 596-8081, or email her at email@example.com.