I have met and heard the tragic stories of many parents. PA is a function, by and large, of a custodial ex-partner, although some alienation can start while the couple is still together.

This blog is a story of experiences and observations of dysfunctional Family Law (FLAW), an arena pitting parent against parent, with children as the prize. Due to the gender bias in Family Law, that I have observed, this Blog has evolved from a focus solely on PA to one of the broader Family/Children's Rights area and the impact of Feminist mythology on Canadian Jurisprudence and the Divorce Industry.

Friday, March 13, 2009

DIVORCE TheStar.com When $450 an hour isn't worth it

Here's a good way to get Canada's largest newspaper to give you an ad for a new enterprise (see last line) by talking about getting out of the family destruction business at $450.00 per hour. The new business is women4women. Makes you wonder how much effort she put in to helping her male clients while practicing Family Law (FLAW). She still defends lawyers and opines they are not sharks. Yeah right! Just like they aren't in it for the money but instead have a broader social focus beyond destroying families through the adversarial system they practice. We also have the same old AG Bentley still blaming the feds for a lack of judges instead of getting fundamental changes in the Divorce act for a presumption of shared and equal parenting. Why doesn't he discuss that and perhaps they will need fewer judges not more.MJM
DIVORCE
TheStar.com | living | When $450 an hour isn't worth it
When $450 an hour isn't worth it
PAWEL DWULIT / TORONTO STAR
Sandy Morris, a former family law lawyer, left her job after growing weary of fighting tough divorces. She’s seen at home with kids Bronte, right, and Kalan.
Mar 13, 2009 04:30 AM
Living Reporter

Family law lawyer Sandy Morris had just helped finalize a difficult divorce when a box arrived at her Toronto office tied up with a big, gold bow. Inside was a strange gift from her elated client – a mounted fish with teeth like a shark.

"It was a barracuda," says Morris in an explosion of laughter. "I couldn't bring myself to throw it away. I'm sure he meant it in a really nice way, but I kept it in my office behind some books because I was embarrassed."

Today the nasty-looking reminder of her more than 20-year career as a divorce lawyer has a different hiding place, behind some family photos on the mantel of her Wychwood Park home. That is where Morris is now "detoxifying" after some difficult days in courtrooms that had come to feel like modern-day Colosseums.

The 45-year-old mother of two decided to "retire" from her $450-an-hour job with the highly respected firm Wilson Christen LLP after growing weary of watching couples fight to the death over everything from kids to cottages, RRSPs to religion.

"My husband said I'd reached my misery threshold," says Morris. "You have to be a particular kind of person to do family law because you're dealing with a lot of sadness day after day. It's hard not to have it affect you."

The barracuda's bite wasn't lost on Morris, who colleagues considered a workaholic and a "toughie" in the courtroom. She knows many people think of divorce lawyers as "sharks" more intent on racking up big billings than brokering peace. But Morris is adamant she has seen very little of that.

Instead, she blames legislative changes 10 years ago and "the dirty little secret you will not find in any self-help book or website" – that there is such a shortage of judges and court resources devoted to family law cases in some parts of Ontario. This is "increasing conflict" by leaving separated couples in a horrendous sort of legal limbo, living in the same house and unable (or unwilling) to agree on division of assets and even support payments without a judge's ruling.

The "inequalities" have become so acute that Morris and some colleagues talked of launching a Charter challenge based on the notion that couples are "being denied equal access to justice based solely on where they happen to live."

The province has been pressing Ottawa to appoint more judges; six were appointed at the end of last year. Attorney General Chris Bentley recently introduced family law reform legislation aimed at making divorce simpler and less expensive, said a spokesperson for his office.

Ironically, the 1999 overhaul of the procedural laws governing divorce, custody, support payments and division of assets was meant to simplify divorce, especially for the 10 to 15 per cent of "high conflict" couples who are simply unable to resolve issues without court intervention. It provided for mandatory case conferences and other informal settlement meetings before a judge, which has helped ensure just 2 to 3 per cent of all divorce cases now end up in full-blown trials.

The system generally works well in Toronto, but largely because a two-tier system of justice has emerged out of the chaos of the family court system. Couples who can afford it have turned to mediation, arbitration and collaboration, which has helped divert thousands of divorces from the courts. But those who don't have money have opted to represent themselves – judges estimate that is now 50 to 70 per cent of all divorce litigation – which has added to court delays.

Other jurisdictions – hardest hit are the fast-growing areas of Newmarket, Brampton and Barrie – have such a severe shortage of judges and court resources, "the case management system is, for the most part, broken down," says veteran family law lawyer Philip Epstein.

That has resulted in overloaded court dockets and months-long delays to appear before judges who are so overwhelmed, many openly admit they haven't had time to read the file. It is not uncommon for clients to take a day off work and spend $1,000 or more to have their lawyer just stand around in the courthouse waiting to be called before a judge who runs out of time.

Compounding the problem in Newmarket is that just a few days are set aside two months of the year – May and November – for trials.

Far from blameless, of course, are the couples who will use any weapon within reach – including their children – to exact vengeance.

"You would get some clients who would say, `I'd rather pay you than pay her (the ex-wife), so every procedural hurdle you can throw up, do it.' Some lawyers would do that, but most would say, `Go find yourself another lawyer because that's not how I work.'"

Morris had no plans, other than spending more time with her daughter Bronte, 12, and son Kalan, 4, when she quit last September. But weeks later, two former clients called her at home and started chatting about the more personal challenges of divorce – including how strangers were calling them for advice on dealing with everything from coping with upset children to developing new relationships with their ex-partners. Morris "felt sick" to suddenly see life "from the other side of the table."

This month the three will launch Women4Women, offering help from seminars to legal advice to a hand to hold on the road ahead.

Morris has seen too many lives devastated, which is why, she suspects, remarkably few of her family law colleagues are divorced.

"I think a lot of divorce lawyers stay married and work on their relationships because they know how awful divorce can be."

For more on Women4Women (the website launches next week at w4wdivorce.com), call 647-347-7339 or email women4women@rogers.com.

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