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In her family-law practice, Karen Thompson-Harry always works towards solutions that meet the families' needs, interests, and common goals. She aims for outcomes that are balanced, not imposed or coerced.

Improving communication

Karen knows that every marital separation is difficult. Much of this difficulty stems from miscommunication, so she focuses on helping divorcing clients communicate more effectively with their spouses by incorporating "powerful non-defensive communication" – a crucial skill for couples who continue to have contact with each other because they have children. This way, they can maintain a respectful relationship, rather than fight each other. When a couple is happy about their settlement, their communication has improved, and they feel good about how they have treated each other, Karen knows that she has succeeded.

Mediation and collaborative law: a better way

Karen is also trained as a mediator and has received her “accreditation” with the Ontario Association of Family Mediation, and she has been practicing collaborative family law since 2000. She has a personal and professional commitment to the principles of alternative dispute resolution in family law and she describes herself as a “peacemaker”.

The traditional, adversarial process of solving family-law cases is designed for extreme positions, bullying, and coercion. The legal model imposes values that a legislator created and restricts the solutions available. But in mediation and collaborative law, the spouses bring their values to the table and custom-design the solution. Parties can negotiate an agreement that incorporates their values, based on what’s important to them, and is respectful of the families’ needs.

Cooperative and flexible

Karen can resolve your divorce or other family-law case in these cooperative, flexible ways, no matter what issues you are dealing with: children, property, support, marriage or separation agreements, and so on. Her ample experience and open-mindedness will help you settle these emotionally charged matters in a way that satisfies both parties involved.

PRACTICE AREAS

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Family law/Divorce:

  • Property division
  • Child support
  • Spousal support
  • Custody and access
  • Separation agreements
  • Marriage contracts
  • Cohabitation agreements
  • Paternity agreements
  • Uncontested divorces

ALTERNATIVE DISPUTE RESOLUTION

There are numerous options for a separating couple to resolve the legal issues arising from their separation. They range from negotiation between the couple to litigation. They have their pros and cons. These options are summarized as follows:

Negotiation by couple

This is where the spouses negotiate directly and try to resolve any conflicts or issues between them. The success of this option depends on the level of conflict and the quality of communication. It is always advisable for each spouse to seek independent advice from a divorce lawyer before finalizing any agreement.

Mediation

This process involves negotiations by the spouses, with the assistance of an independent, third-party neutral, i.e. the mediator. The divorce mediator may or may not be a lawyer, but even if the mediator is a lawyer, their role in this process is not to provide legal advice to rolex replica either spouse but to assist them in reaching a mutually acceptable resolution. The mediator facilitates the discussions between the couple, and the process promotes cooperation and understanding. It is voluntary, and the couple is in control of the agreement. Mediation may not be appropriate if there is a history of abuse, whether verbal or physical, as there may be power imbalances that cannot be "neutralized" in this process. It is always advisable for the parties to seek independent legal advice before finalizing any agreement reached in mediation.

Collaborative Family Law

This is a relatively new form of practice that involves both spouses with their trained collaborative lawyers. The process attempts to resolve conflict in a non-adversarial manner, without going to court. It may also involve other associate professionals as part of the "team approach" (such as financial experts, parenting specialists etc.). It is client-centered, and the family lawyers assist the couple to communicate and negotiate in a respectful, dignified manner. The agreement is tailor-made to address the couple's unique circumstances.

Mediation/Arbitration

This too is a voluntary process. The separating couple attempts mediation first, but if they are unsuccessful, they retain the third-party neutral (the mediator/arbitrator) to make the decision for them (see Arbitration description below).

Arbitration

This involves a voluntary process for dispute resolution, without going to court. The couple retains and pays for an "arbitrator", a third party neutral, who will "rule" on the issues presented. It may take the format of a "hearing", similar to court, in which evidence is given under oath and witnesses called. The divorcing couple, with their family lawyers and the arbitrator, will agree on the format in advance and sign a contract. The arbitrator's decision is legally binding and can be enforced as if it was a court order. The decisions are appealable in certain circumstances. The advantages to this process are that the parties control the format and that it results in a final resolution much more quickly than the litigation process does.

Traditional lawyer negotiations

In this model, the divorce lawyers negotiate on behalf of their clients to reach the "best" deal for them. This is non-binding and very dependent upon the lawyers' negotiation skills. It is adversarial in nature. If this process breaks down, the clients usually wind up in court.

Litigation

This is the traditional adversarial model in which the parties, with or without counsel, apply to court to resolve their conflicts or disputes. The judge imposes a decision, based on law, after hearing from both parties. It is lengthy and expensive, and clients do not control the process.

Conclusion

The above options move from those in which the divorcing/separating couples have the most control over the process, to replica rolex those where they have the least control. Furthermore, the processes move from resolutions that are client-focused and generated, to resolutions that are based on the "law model". Arbitration and traditional lawyer negotiations, and litigation, are processes that are based on the "law model", and clients have decreasing control over the final resolutions. Mediation and collaborative family law offer the clients the most control both over the process and the final agreement.

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Karen Thompson-Harry
1 Wellington Rd. 124
Erin, Ontario

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