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Ditching Lawyer to Represent Myself

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  • Rhonda&Kids
    Hi, Thanks for the options on the lawyer. I'll try and salvage the relationship then and so as you've advised. Can I just ask you what your background is so to better understand your perspective?

    My big problem still remains that fact that the current shared custody/joint parenting arrangement and access arrangements are NOT in the best interest of the children. Its high conflict with every joint decision, consent and the access arrangements are not possible for me to do. I've done my homework, I've read tones of academic and scholar papers, read websites including the Canadian Court of Justice sites, Tug of War (Justice Brownstone) etc.etc.etc. There is no one that would agree that the current shared arrangement is in the best interest of the children. There is power and control that I need to break away from and that means having the day to day decision making for the kids. I could deal with joint custody on major issues because how often do major educationional/medical/religious issues come up. Its the small stuff that makes parenting in the best interest of the children expensive, difficult and causes delays such as the time my son did not get his puffer medication beccause my ex did not call me to tell me I sent the wrong one (it had expired) and he did not give him the medication, instead wrote a nasty lawyers letter when the children came back to me. He is not putting their best interest first, rather seeking opportunities to rake me over the coals. This example is only a drop in the bucket.

    I understand I have to support myself, so that will not be an arguement.

    I just need to know why there is so much written on high conflict not being in the best interest of the kids, yet no one will take my side on it and see that the current 50/50 arrangement should be changed, as circumstances have changed. I just can't not go to the 1 hour visits each week. I will look bad, yet those visits are awful for everyone, the ex agrees, but is stubborn and won't agree to changing it between our selves. EG: On Thursdays the kids get out of school at 3:15pm, go to eat dinner at his mothers or restaurant and are supposed to meet me at 5:30pm. The amount of driving here accounts for at least 40 minutes. I finish work/school at 5:00pm and then have to take a bus to a location that he decides on (always being far away for me to get to) so I can't make it on time for the 5:30 visit. We then have 1 hour to get to gymnastics (on the bus) on the other side of town for 6:30. Thats it for the mid week visit. Its horrible. We did this in a snow storm last week. He drove by us laughing as I was walking to the bus with the 2 small kids in tow.

    If I beleive this is not in the best interest of the children and am willing to take the chance that the judge will agree with me, can't I INSIST this is returned to court and my lawyer should be bound by their ethical obligation to represent me to make an good arguement, based on the information I give them????

    This is all I care about because the current arrangement cannot be acheived. How come no one sees this?? Am I crazy, and why is there publications on high conflict and the best interest of the children....

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  • Mess
    You need a net family financial statement to get anywhere in this. You could possibly have a legal settlement worked out just between you and your ex without one if you were totally amicable and agreed on everything. You already know the likelyhood of that.

    To get any steps done at all in the courts, you need financial statements completed. You have already seen them, it's possible to do them your self and swear they are true and provide supporting documents and statements, but in the end you have to have it.

    You will have to pay that lawyer. Today, tomorrow, next year, you will have to pay her.

    Here are your choices. You can represent yourself, which would have to mean months of preparation, you are not ready to go into this now. You have to know the forms, get all your documents in order, replace everything in your file at that other lawyer, get your arguments sorted out, etc. You aren't ready and you won't get anything out of this for months even if you are capable.

    You can get a new lawyer, start from scratch since there is no way your previous one will release your file without payment. This will still cost you $5000 anyway, you won't get work started without a retainer. Unless you are clear with your new lawyer and take control of the process you will run into the same problems again and again anyway.

    You can work something out with your existing lawyer. This means coming to an agreement with her regarding payment. It means being clear about what steps she is going to take and when. It means what steps she is not to take without consulting you. It means having a clear timeline of progress and it means working out a payment plan. You are guarenteed in this case to receive your share of the house and business, she should see that, and should be willing to continue working on that basis. But you have to be willing to sign a contract with her for payment and not complain about it. She would be working for free until this is over. You have to negotiate with her and be reasonable, and also be clear about what your rights and expectations are in this arrangement.

    You say the firm had you sign a direction where they would be paid by your eventual settlement. That should have been binding on them. Why is the partner now asking for payment in full? Is there an explanation for this? You have a contract with them and they are bound to it. Make a polite inquiry, ask why this is, and then call the Law Society of Upper Canada and get their opinion on this. Please don't open up with threats to go the Law Society at first, there is still a possibility of working this out.

    Again, you have almost 0 likelyhood of changing 50/50 access schedule. You aren't showing any grounds for it. You can make your arguments about positive reasons why a different schedule would be better for the kids, but these are just arguments, it doesn't mean they will be effective. Going to court and saying "This was supposed to be for 4 weeks" won't work, really it won't. At this point it doesn't matter who was driving the train, it has crashed, don't worry about blame or cause, just start cleaning up and get things moving again.

    Again, as far as things like the truck go, I'm not saying your ex is in the right. I'm saying you won't get the truck back tomorrow, or any time soon, or maybe at all. What you will get is your share of the equalization. If you want to fix things and get your life in order, make the road to completing the equalization smooth and fast and get it done, get your cheque in your hands asap and get on with your life.

    Regarding what you said about the kids, daycare, working part-time. What your response be if your ex said that he would work part time and keep the kids during the day? Would you argue that he should get off his a**?

    You both have equal responsibility to work and earn and support the kids. This isn't me saying this, this is what the law will say, it is what his lawyer will argue. The judge has discretion and may give some weight to what you want, but there is no guarentee of this. It is very likely that the end situation will be what your ex is suggesting. Or you will be considered capable of working full time and be imputed an income. You can't count on getting your way here.

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  • Rhonda&Kids
    The children are 4 and 6 right now. The ex has had possession of the matramonial home since I left to the shelter (he owned it two years prior to our being married and it is solely in his name). He lives 40 minutes away from me in a remote rural area. I live by the children's school 1.5 km away.

    I read the book Tug of War and a tonne of other books that agree that Joint Custody/Shared Parenting is not in the children's best interest when the parents cannot agree on issues pertaining to the children ie: medical, educational, extra curricular issues. I've read that when there is high conflict (we ARE undoubtably HIGH CONFLICT) that shared/joint doesn't work either in the eyes of a judge. I communicate via email and he doesn't respond. Any parening issue that comes up, he puts it through his lawyer to mine, driving up my bill. He has broken the order and not disclosed his financials so that his income can be imputed and has dragged this on since May 2009 (how much time do the courts give these guys to produce when they are self employed) and since that time he has taken full control of everything I own because it is all in his name ie: taken my personal vehicle in the middle of the night, when he has his own personal vehicle and it was not a business vehicle (it was just in his name so he could write it off). I feel as though I've been raped now because my lawyer is putting the squeeze on to be paid and she hasn't done a thing but cause further delay.

    Since November I've been telling her to go back to court as the judge wanted us to return. I need spousal support and he has not been complying with the order (he's always a month behind in support). At christmas he made it especiall hard because he withheld Decembers support until mid January (angry that I was taking the kids to Disney). He's made consenting to anything extremely expensive.

    I ordered the court transcripts from our last motion to prove to my lawyer that the judge wanted this returned 4 weeks after to see how things were going. He seen the high conflict in the affidavitds. My lawyer who represented me then was not effective in the arguement of the children's schedule. O/C and ex were offering a 4 day (Thurs to Monday, everyother weekend and Thursday sleepover) or alternately a week about. I wanted to take the 4 day (thurs-mon schedule) but when I piped up to tell my lawyer to take it, she took so long in agreeing to it with her banter that the judge just yelled out status quo, I'm sick of this. I even asked if I could say something your honour and he said NO!

    My lawyer last week read the transcripts and has concluded in her mind that "His Honour did hear submissions in regard to the issue of ongoing access to the children and his decision was in fact made that the access arrangement would be a week on week off shared schedule as is currently in place. "

    I highlighed in the transcript the part where he says this is to return in 4 weeks time but she argues that prior to that, in the transcript it was apparent the His Honour wanted the matter returned to see how the children were coping with the week on week off schedule.

    In that time we had to have police station exchanges because my youngest child was so resistant to go with his father. He's only 4 and very close to me. This was what was making the exchanges so emotional, not that fact that I accused him of an assult. Every time his dad came to get them the littlest hung on to me for dear life and screamed wanting to stay with me. During this time I was waiting for the OCL to give a decision (it took 8 weeks) and put a stall on going back to court. Then chirstmas came, then the lawyer had a vacation and a trial and now is off sick until March 27.

    The firm had me sign a direction which would forward the funds from my settlement to them for payment and I gave them a small retainer. I had a legal aid certificate before this lawyer but there were no family lawyers who would take it (this is becoming a norm) I have property matters as well and need spousal support which legal aid hours are supposedly not covered.

    So in my situation with this lawyer now I want to represent my self, but they have my financial paperwork (equilization and family net statement) that they just made but haven't given me a copy of yet. My lawyer gone now and the senior partner has instructed me they would put a solicitors lein on my file if they are not paid and cannot continue working for me unless I pay my bill of $5000. I don't have this money. How important is it that I get the family net statement (I filled it out initially on my own).

    This firm is saying if I wanted the schedule changed I had to do it before the kids went back to school. I tried that but my previous lawyer refused to go into court until mid september. THEY SCREWED ME AND MY KIDS. I'm so pissed.

    Now they are saying because my ex is not agreeable to any values or appraisals, this will require a trial. They are proposing that I make a motion for spousal support and impute what I can and try and get an interim equiliazation without predjudice until it can go to trial.

    In Sept. my youngest son will be going in to half day kindergarten. This schedule will not work the way its been going. My ex works and wants to put the child into day care in the afternoon after school. I want to have the child at home with me in the afternoons. Don't I have the right as a mother (who when we had children, that was the plan that I stay home until they are in school). I am a full time student right now but will finsih and graduate my course in August this year. I can work part time mornings to accomodate my son's half day schedule instead of putting him into day care but my ex argues that I should get off my fat a** and get a job.
    Where do I stand here?

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  • Mess
    I'm going by my parents splitting up, and my dad had a small construction firm with a number of vehicles and equipment. They were all property of the firm. I was 19 at the time, had left home and got to see both sides of the war.

    The courts won't split the firm into pieces, because then the husband can't run the business, pay support etc. It' likely he's doing a tax dodge and registering the truck with the business for the write off, but that doesn't change the fact it belongs to the business, and she can't just take it, any more than she can walk in and take the photocopier or the fax machine.

    The fact she had it for 8 months gives her an argument, it doesn't give her ownership (the way she has ownership of the house jointly.) Ownership is registered to Jerk Inc. He owes her a cash settlement of 50% of his business' worth, not half of the business equipment. He will likely give her his half of the house in exchange for her half of the business for example. Which she already has in practice, if she has possession of the home.

    The thing to me is, do you pick a fight and have a court battle over this truck, or do a proper equalization and take the cash settlement or the house instead? What's the most effective use of your time, money and energy? Because if the truck isn't registered in either of their names, she can't just call the cops. (That said, it would have been interesting if she'd just reported it stolen the next morning.)

    I really do see my mom and dad in this (right down to the assault), and right now he is on another message board complaining that she had stolen his truck and it took him 8 months to get it back. They are both right and they are both wrong and if they keep fighting then they are going to spend all their assets in court.

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  • NBDad
    Ordinarily I would agree with you Mess, except for one detail on the whole "truck issue"...she left in March 2009...he only took the truck in NOVEMBER. (8 months later).

    If it was required for business purposes, he should have taken it way earlier, by leaving it for the better part of a year, it's obvious it wasn't necessary for that and he had no legal right to it at that point until the division of assets were complete. If he showed up to try to take it, then she should have called the police and they would have told him tough luck.

    I would argue to have the drop off moved to her mothers (preference would be to have a 3rd party do it or supervise it) only due to the fact that she has no vehicle. Technically since she's so close to the school, they should be able to do the exchanges there when the oldest gets out of school. Just walk the little fella up and hand him over. After school = tons of kids/parents/teachers...aka metric crap ton of witnesses.

    Sounds like she's tried to adjust the weekly visits but he's being stubborn about it. I would simply drop the mid week visit, get an established phone schedule made up and enforced/etc.

    I agree with all your others points, but just wanted to clarify the reasoning behind the whole truck thing. I've been through that before, even with a vehicle solely in MY name, since we were married, the cops couldn't do ANYTHING about her taking off with the car. Same situation here, he had no right to take it, if it was needed for business purposes he should have made a motion through the courts to have it returned to him, instead of just arbitrarily walking over and taking it.

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  • Mess
    You can feel all the regrets about wanting to do things differently, it won't change what you have to deal with now.

    He is not abusive to the kids, so the 50/50 status quo will be impossible to challenge. Why do you regret this? Is it because the children are suffering, or because it puts you in a weaker position? I'm being tough here because if you want to change it, you need and answer to that question. If you don't have an answer, then don't waste your resources on a losing battle.

    As far as the truck, I disagree with NBDad (there is a first time for everything). You may own 50% of my steel foundry, but that doesn't mean that you can come in and remove my blast furnace. If the truck is property of the business and needed by the business, then it's going to be hard to make a claim for it for your personal use.

    As to pick-up and drop off, you have accused him with assault (not clear if you have charged him) and gone to a woman's shelter. His lawyer will be advising him to protect himself and do the exchanges at the police station. I would advise him the same thing.

    The mid-week visits would normally be after school, which is close to your house. Move them up an hour, see them after school, and then switch off at a public place.

    Whether the judge had "intended" the week on/off to be temporary, if the children are ok with it, then why shouldn't it stay in place? You would still have to show a good reason. The fact that the school is close to your house is not good enough. Again, you have to pick your battles or you will spend another $10000 on a losing cause.

    Whether he paid little attention to the children in the past is moot. I am sure you are paying more attention to them now too. He has had to make a choice to be an involved parent, or not, and he has chosen to be an involved parent.

    As far as the house goes, you are unclear. You are living close to the school, he is living across town. Do you have possession of the house? The end result, you will get half it's value.

    As far as his income goes, again you have to pick your battles. He is "capable" of earning $120k a year, is that gross? He has expenses, including the truck. Peak income is not always guaranteed. He is now a single parent and can't work overtime or evenings every week. Be very clear about your arguments, and you would probably be better off agreeing to split the difference, or base his income on a three year average.

    The main thing I would advise you to do is sit down and make a list of what you expect the courts to do for you. Don't expect the courts to fix up a Disney World trip. Your family net assets will be split, but don't expect the courts to hand you the keys to the truck. Don't expect full custody of the children because it is better for you.

    You need to stop jumping from lawyer to lawyer without a clear plan. You need your financials no matter what, you have to pay that lawyer for the work she did. You need to give clear instructions to lawyers what to do and what not to do, you need to be clear about timelines, you need to ask them to give you clear ideas about what to expect from them, how busy they are, how regularly you can expect progress, etc. You have a part to play in this too. You need to step up and take some control over what your lawyer is doing, or you will run into the same problem over and over.

    Again, more than anything, you need to focus. What three things do you need to accomplish in the next few months. Start with that.

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  • NBDad
    He's physically abusive and I was scared so I left to a shelter with the kids.
    Mistake #1 right there...if he was being physically abusive towards you, you should have called the police and had him removed.

    He doesn't abuse the kids physically so I allowed the kids to go back and forth to the home with him equally when I stayed at the womens shelter
    Mistake #2. If you leave an abusive person to go to a shelter, WHY would you allow the children to travel back and forth?

    In November he came and took away my truck
    Why did you allow him to do that? Did he have a spare key? He cannot just up and "take" it.

    He cancels appointments I've made for them and reschedules them so he can take them.
    Change them back.

    He's changed their dental histories to his name.
    Change them back. Shouldn't "just" be in his name. There's usually a contact information section that lists both parents. If you aren't on there, make sure they add you back in.

    He's made arrangeing holiday schedules extremely expensive and a headache by insisting they go in an order.
    Write in the holiday access schedules in the custody/access agreement.

    He will not exchange the kids at my moms house because he hates her.
    Write in the drop off/pick up location in the custody/access agreement. If he took the truck (which he had no legal right to do if it was the vehicle you were using at the time, as a married couple you have a legal right to 50% of all assets, which if he owns his own business INCLUDES 50% of the business, including all assets (such as vehicles). )

    He make me travel across town to the police station to pick up the kids for a 1 hour visit when I only have 1/2 an hour to get there by bus???
    Forgo this midweek access stuff. one hour/week is just extra hassle and something to fight about. Let's be honest, an hour isn't doing anyone any good in your situation.

    Cut all communications with him except via email. In terms of the phone contact with the children send him an email requesting he have them contact you between X and X time each evening for your phone access as per the court order. If he doesn't respond, then DO NOT call him. It will come back to bite him eventually. If you have the emails, you can prove he is being uncooperative.

    He does not follow the order and let me speak to the children once a night. If he doesn't like something or doesn't get his way he punishes me and won't let me talk to them for days
    Make sure you can back this up. Blantantly disregarding court orders is just going to bite him in the posterior eventually.

    He's underemploying himself so he doesn't have to pay alot of support. He's capable of making $120,000 per year and has only agreed to a stated imputed income of $53,000
    Request that he provide the last 3 years of income tax returns due to this. Should show a pattern if he's doing this on purpose. If his income tax returns show that he's only making 50-ish K, sorry but you don't have a leg to stand on.

    How long were you married for? How old are the children now? How much is your income going to be this year? (Approx?)

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  • Rhonda&Kids
    By the way, we have not settled anything in this year. The house will need to be sold (its in his name) and I want to impute the marital assets he won't give me and my personal things that he won't give me. He is a classic car collector with a lot of assets. He argues every value, even the appraisal that I recently got done because it came out higher than his. Do judges have any room in their hearts for people who are trying their best to communicate and get along, but the other party refuses to communicate (he won't answer any email I send....he's 1/2 illiterate) and he won't keep to his word. On several occassions I've tried to reason with him and change the mide week visit to make it longer (1 hour is ridiculous and is hard on the kids). He agrees one day, then changes it back to NO. Saying "my lawyer tells me not to." He doesn't have the children's best interest at hand. He cannot communicate and he is a controlling wop (excuse the slang...I don't have anything against other italians).

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  • Rhonda&Kids
    started a topic Ditching Lawyer to Represent Myself

    Ditching Lawyer to Represent Myself

    Hi, I've been reading the forums for a while now and this is my first chance to write in on my case.
    In a nutshell we've been separated after I proved he was having multiple affairs throughout the marriage. I caught him with a GPS tracker (the Snitch) and he's pissed now that his "dapper dad" image is not what he's portrayed it to be. He's a bully and a manipulator. He managed to find a lawyer to suit his personality as well.
    He's charasmatic and calm and has successfully played himself as the victim. Back in March 2009 he intercepted a message on the answering machine from my lawyer and he didn't like it so he told me to "Get the F Out". He's physically abusive and I was scared so I left to a shelter with the kids. He doesn't abuse the kids physically so I allowed the kids to go back and forth to the home with him equally when I stayed at the womens shelter. My boys were 3 and 6 at the time. The custody arrangement we had was too unstable so when we went to our case conference we agreed to give a week about at each parents home a try during the summer. I also got $800 in support. My lawyer did not do a good job on advising me that day. She did not arrange for any mid week access visits or specify any telephone communication. I did not think that had to be part of an access order....boy was I wrong. I found out the hard way over the summer that he was not allowing me to talk to the boys over the phone or see them for a mid week visit. We were told to go to parenting co-orintation, which we did, but left without any resolution because he stormed out and would not return. I was stilling willing. The mediator was trying to establish mid week contact to ammend the order with. My ex agreed in the office, then a day later when a freeze came over his LOC (I registered my name on the matramonial home) the bank froze his line of credit. My ex then changed his mind on the visits and would not agree to letting me see the kids once a week betwween weeks. I left the house with everything of mine in it. To this day I have not been able to get back in and get my stuff out. I have only my clothes. The police have been involved over 13 times and so has Children's Aid because of the police involvment and a dirty trick my ex did by accusing a person I was seeing of molesting my son (all false and proved it.) My first lawyer was part time, young and inexperienced. My second lawyer was more experienced, but too busy and very unorganized office. She's been said to be loosing it by other lawyers. These two lawyers were working on legal aid certificates (worst thing I could of ever done). My third lawyer is dragging it out and since November I've been telling her to take my case back to court. This is why....In September a Superior Court Judge became frustrated by our case. My lawyer was bantering on and was making me frustrated by her pittyful argument on my behalf. She kept repeating herself and studdering her sentences with nothing of value to argue. She did not get me any spousal support either because ex has not fully disclosed his financials since May 2009. He's self employed and king of stall. He threatened me he would do this when we split up. He's underemploying himself so he doesn't have to pay alot of support. He's capable of making $120,000 per year and has only agreed to a stated imputed income of $53,000. The Judge in September Ordered Status Quo. Week about, 1 hour visit from 5:30-6:30 on Thursdays, non-access parent is to receive a phone call from access parent on behalf of children once per day. The ex lives 40 minutes away from me and the childrens school. I live 5 minutes away from children's school at my moms house. In November he came and took away my truck (it was in his name for business purposes) and now I'm left with no vehicle. I'm so frustrated that my lawyer has not listed to me and got this back before a judge sooner. I'm very worried about the status quo its setting. Anyhow, the Judge in September said he wants us back in 4 weeks time. Unfortunately I paniced from his order of status quo and requested that the OCL become involved. That took 8 weeks to get a reply from. They declined to get involved without providing a reason. Since then, I've lost my truck, $5000 in legal fees to this 3rd lawyer and worst of all its impossible to co-parent with my ex because he makes everything very difficult. To get his consent for Disney trip after Xmass this year that my mom paid for took 4 months of lawyer letters and an Order. He was totally unreasonable asking for a cash retainer that I return to the country ($7500). To get his consent for the kids to see a play therapist has been a drawn out process which he still hasn't given consent. He's not sharing any information abou the kids. He cancels appointments I've made for them and reschedules them so he can take them. He's changed their dental histories to his name. He's made arrangeing holiday schedules extremely expensive and a headache by insisting they go in an order. He will not exchange the kids at my moms house because he hates her. He make me travel across town to the police station to pick up the kids for a 1 hour visit when I only have 1/2 an hour to get there by bus??? He does not follow the order and let me speak to the children once a night. If he doesn't like something or doesn't get his way he punishes me and won't let me talk to them for days. Even on Valentines day he convienetly didn't answer his phone. If I call he says I'm harrassing him. So at this point he's impossible to share parenting with because it costs me so much money and greif. He's dragging out confilict that isn't there with the exchanges. I want primary residence of the kids because they go to school here and he agreed we move here before we left him. He now wants to keep status quo. At the same time doesn' want to give me any money or any thing. This third lawyer has done my net family statment. I owe her $5000 for nothing (November to Now). She hasn't done anything for me. I need to get my paperwork from her, but don't have a dime to pay her with. Any advice on all this. I really just want to get along and get out of his control. He's driving me crazy to the point where I cry for days because I feel helpless and hopeless this will ever come to an end. I just want my kids. He 's alienating them. But he turns it all around to make it seem like I'm the nut. I was a stay at home mom for 6 years. I went back to school last June and will graduate this August with a diploma and hopefully get a job. I want to continue raising my littlest until he's in full time school but my ex would rather have him in day care, than let me stay with him in the afternoons, when I can. He's turning the kids against their grandmother, whom they were very close to since birth, because he himself has disowned his own father and his own grandmother. He's vendicitve and impossible. But everyone seems to favour him, especially the police, thats why I couldn't get back into the house to get my stuff. I put all my RRSP money into that house. Its in his name solely. Boy was I an idiot for not having my name on things and keeping my kids with me. I took the high road with the thought that he'd be reasonable and that hasn't been the case. My present lawyer told me last week that she had to have surgery. She kept telling me I needed concrete issues to change the status quo, when infact I ordered the transcripts and proved that the judge did not want this order to stand longer than a month. I kept asking her to get it back into court, but she sent me around town getting child psychologist reports and spending more of my money on nothing. She still hasn't called me and she will be off for 2 weeks. How should I go about handeling this on my own. I need my financial paperwork that she's done so that I can ask the judge for spousal support. I'm so broke (full time student) and terribly missing my children in between these long breaks. He was never with the kids when we were married. Its only now he's taken an interest and is taking over just like bullys do. Who can shut this bully down. I'm a desparate mom. Help me with some good advice. We've been given a raw deal from everywhere else.
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