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Divorce & Family Law This forum is for discussing any of the legal issues involved in your divorce.

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  #1  
Old 01-12-2021, 10:24 AM
polgara polgara is offline
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Default Trial scheduled - can't afford lawyer

Hello there! I hope everyone had a good start of the year. Mine has been stressful and I am in shambles.

I have been divorced for a few years, with joint custody and shared parenting. Ex has applied for full and very limited visitation. I won't go into detail as to how much manipulation and false allegations I have had to fight so far, but trial date is set and lawyer has sent a letter asking for a $300k retainer by the end of the month. I don't have the money. I have spent more than I make in lawyers in the last three years, I have nothing left (financially, emotionally). English is my second language, I know nothing about law and my trial is starting in 3 months.

I am looking for both emotional and practical support. I am a single mom working full time, online schooling two very young children (one with SN) and I just can't keep up with life. I am an immigrant and don't have any family around or who can help in a practical or financial sense.

I have read the guides about trial, and I think I understand how it works, but I could not find a list of forms that I need to fill or timelines. I have had legal representation this far, but my lawyer only works with upfront fees and he is $700/h. I can't pay anymore. I am desperate.

- Anyone with experience pro se?
- Anyone willing to lend a hand?
- Anyone with ideas about financing when my debt is already close to 5x my salary?
- Any way I can gain time?
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  #2  
Old 01-12-2021, 11:49 AM
StillPaying StillPaying is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by polgara View Post
I am looking for both emotional and practical support.
You can do it! 👍

The good part is that you don't have to do much. You're joint/5050. Ex is looking to change that, so it'll be on them to prove it. They either have proof, which means the change is probably warranted, or they don't and will get dealt with accordingly. 300k for a couple days?! What did you do...
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  #3  
Old 01-12-2021, 11:59 AM
Stillbreathing Stillbreathing is offline
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There are several things you can do. You can get a new lawyer for much less. Many lawyer will give you a 30 minute consultation for free. They can give you advice regarding your options.

You can also hire a lawyer on a limited retainer. That means you save legal fees but you do a lot of work yourself and have the lawyer review your documents, etc. In other words you only pay for guidance and advice while doing as much of the work yourself. You can hire them to do bits and pieces of your trial not all of it.

$300k sounds way out of line. Most lawyers charge $5000/day and prep time. So if you have a 5 day trial that is $25,000 plus prep.
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  #4  
Old 01-12-2021, 12:18 PM
polgara polgara is offline
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Angry

The trial is scheduled for 18 days.

I would obviously prefer to have a lawyer, but who would take my case from scratch when it is scheduled to start in 3 months (all materials due between now and March and there are 3 years old litigation and so much mud)?

We have had joint for 5 years, and I was primary for 4 of them (newborn and 2 years old when separated - progressive schedule). We coparented well for the first two years, lived closeby, were civil. Then he moved in to his girlfriend's house far away and then it is when litigation started, to change schools to his neighbourhood and to get custody.

He did not get anything that he applied for until... turning point. The day my materials are due for return my daughter has a tantrum in the street and someone reports me for "throwing her to the floor". I categorically didn't, my kids threw themselves to the floor when they had tantrums, but it led to a criminal charge, that was withdrawn, and a children's aid investigation, that was closed and I have called as witnesses, having very positive comments about my parenting.

That and all the conflict he has deliberately created and all the mud, manipulation and agression of his lawyer have already resulted in an OCL recommendation of full custody for him and very limited visitation for me.

Concerns of the OCL: nutrition (my kids had a brownie the day she visited - therefore they must be eating brownies everyday for breakfast, lunch and dinner), false statements (like I call my ex to pick up the children late at night when I have emergencies at work - I have a 9 to 5 office job), that I do not attend medical appointments (ex has repeatedly booked appointments without informing me and I have asked the pediatrician to call me each time this happens, that they have not done. Before litigation started I did all regular checkups and father was not even there - but pediatrician remembers the last one or two years been dad the parent who takes kids there the most, of course!). OCL has a problem with me opposing a medication (that had not been recommended by any doctor, and for what my child didn't even had a confirmed diagnose - I agreed when diagnose was made and medication recommended, as I have always followed professional recommendations). Seeing how he can charm "professionals" into making such reports without even showing proof of anything doesn't instill trust in justice. Judge also made an order in a motion to change my children's school, against recommendations of the child's psychologist (child with SN). My child was expelled from next school within days. Such a screw up from judge, but she decided that the professionals had recommended it (that's what ex's affidavit said, although my affidavit included a letter from the professional himself saying that he did not make such statements, that ex was lying and that he actually recommended otherwise)

Too much to fight, too much noise, too much emotion, and I don't feel I can do it myself, not to mention I need to keep my job and the ridiculous remote learning requirements (call school for 25 minutes every 30 from 8:30 to 3:30 + homework, and if I miss a call it will be used against me).

I am breaking down.
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  #5  
Old 01-12-2021, 12:18 PM
rockscan rockscan is offline
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Do you qualify for legal aid?


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  #6  
Old 01-12-2021, 12:20 PM
polgara polgara is offline
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[QUOTE=rockscan;244810]Do you qualify for legal aid?


No, I don't. The threshold is too low and I have a decent salary. I am still too poor to afford $300k, and I am a single income household with about $100k/year in legal expenses for the last three years.
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  #7  
Old 01-12-2021, 01:17 PM
polgara polgara is offline
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I make less than that, so I already exhausted all saving and credit resources that I had available.

- Would a lawyer take a case this late and do a decent job of defending my best interest? I can still get someone cheaper and do a payment plan, but I don't know if someone could actually get up to date in such short time?

- Will a change in representation be cause for "adjournment"/ask for some extra time (at this stage)?

- Any other possibility for getting extra time so I may get some extra financing (second job, etc)?

- How hard is to self-represent, and specially in a 18 days trial against a top lawyer and manipulated narrative? Need to consider I am ESL and not great at public speaking or writing.
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  #8  
Old 01-12-2021, 03:27 PM
StillPaying StillPaying is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by polgara View Post
The trial is scheduled for 18 days.
Highly unlikely it will actually be that long.

Quote:
I would obviously prefer to have a lawyer, but who would take my case from scratch when it is scheduled to start in 3 months (all materials due between now and March and there are 3 years old litigation and so much mud)?
A lawyer would ignore the mud and focus on facts. 3 months is plenty of time, and most likely much less than 300k.

Quote:
We have had joint for 5 years, and I was primary for 4 of them (newborn and 2 years old when separated - progressive schedule). We coparented well for the first two years, lived closeby, were civil. Then he moved in to his girlfriend's house far away and then it is when litigation started, to change schools to his neighbourhood and to get custody.
How far away? This was a mobility/relocation case highly unlikely to succeed. Were there other issues? This case should have been easy for you and extremely hard for your ex.

Quote:
He did not get anything that he applied for until... resulted in an OCL recommendation of full custody for him and very limited visitation for me
If OCL based anything on the criminal case, that would be easier to debunk. Otherwise, there must have been a lot more for them to recommend changing custody, access, status quo.

Quote:
Seeing how he can charm "professionals" into making such reports without even showing proof of anything doesn't instill trust in justice.
Judge also made an order in a motion to change my children's school
Perhaps the distance isn't far? These types of decisions have a lot of consequences and are not usually done without trial. Did your access change?

Quote:
Too much to fight, too much noise, too much emotion, and I don't feel I can do it myself
Focus on the facts and forget the rest.
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  #9  
Old 01-12-2021, 05:10 PM
polgara polgara is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by StillPaying View Post
Highly unlikely it will actually be that long.
Are you saying it is possible to take less than scheduled? How would that work with all witnesses? They will be called on different days I am assuming

Quote:
Originally Posted by StillPaying View Post
How far away?
I think I exaggerated that, not relocation. He moved about 15km (from down the street) and outside the subway line and I don't drive, so it is close to 1.5h commute for me, 15-20 minutes if driving.

Quote:
Originally Posted by StillPaying View Post
If OCL based anything on the criminal case, that would be easier to debunk.
By the time of the OCL report, charges had been withdrawn and CAS file closed with positive comments about my parenting and no concerns identified for my family. OCL decided to not talk to the case worker and just read the file. Although criminal court and CAS didn't find indication of abuse, OCL made a finding of assault herself.

Quote:
Originally Posted by StillPaying View Post
Did your access change?
No, we are on a 2255 schedule, equal share of parenting time. I only lost overnights while CAS investigated and was back to regular schedule with overnights within 6 weeks.

Quote:
Originally Posted by StillPaying View Post
Perhaps the distance isn't far?
If you mean positions, yes. I am asking to keep 50/50 visitation on whatever schedule works, that been 2255, 2233, 7/7, anything.
Regarding custody I am asking for joint (made offer with parenting coordinator). I know court can't order PC, so parallel parenting, etc Lastly, custody for me (as fallback).

Ex is asking for full custody - won't settle for anything less
Ex is asking for 4 overnights/month for me - won't settle for 50/50 and I won't settle for less
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  #10  
Old 01-13-2021, 11:18 AM
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Janus Janus is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by polgara View Post
lawyer has sent a letter asking for a $300k retainer by the end of the month.
This is not as bad as you think. $300k is absolutely outrageous. Luckily, you know this in advance so you can dump this lawyer.

Quote:
but my lawyer only works with upfront fees and he is $700/h.
Unless your lawyer is secretely sleeping with the judge, he is not worth anything close to that much money.


Quote:
I have read the guides about trial, and I think I understand how it works, but I could not find a list of forms that I need to fill or timelines.
Find a lawyer to only deal with the paperwork. You probably don't need anybody representing you in court. As somebody else on this thread said, you are looking for a "limited retainer".

And it should be a lot less than $300k. I'm thinking less than $20k if the lawyer is just helping you fill out forms.

Quote:
- Any way I can gain time?
You can always ask for an adjournment, especially if you dump or change your lawyer. Ask earlier rather than later, because you could end up paying money to your ex if their lawyer has already started preparing for the trial.
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