The COVID-19 pandemic presents unique challenges for separating and separated couples, but options are available for parties to resolve disputes remotely—including mediation subsidized by the Quebec government.
Are you managing a divorce or separation in the midst of the pandemic?
Has the crisis brought about a need to adjust your agreement or judgment in place whether with respect to custody or support?
If so, you are not alone. There are very few families who have not been affected in a significant way, especially with children home from school.
Will the Court hear your dispute?
If you are the victim of domestic violence or if your children are at risk for any reason because of the conduct of your partner or ex-partner, we can help you bring proceedings before the Court. Even during the government lockdown, the Court will hear all matters where the safety or security of a spouse or a child is in question. Issues about child support or alimony can only be heard if there is an unusual urgency.
But with the courts hearing only the most urgent of cases (and with a much higher threshold for urgency than usual), you must try your best to come to an agreement with your partner or ex-partner, especially if your children are involved.
For instance, if you are trying to work out the sharing of custodial time with your ex-partner, in most cases, it should be possible to come to an agreement. We can help you negotiate that agreement, without going to court.
The Associate Chief Justice of the Superior Court, Judge Eva Petras, has asked all of us to work harder than ever to help spouses and ex-spouses come to agreements, especially to protect the rights of their children.
Courts will only be re-opening gradually starting at some point in May, and only limited numbers of cases will be heard, again, depending upon urgency.
The conditions imposed on all of us by the government lockdown will keep evolving. An agreement reached this week may not be relevant by next week. Now is the time to work together, to show flexibility, creativity and common sense.
Over the past month, judges of the Quebec Superior Court across the province have repeated and reinforced the importance of working together to resolve disputes by discussion and compromise, instead of running to court, wherever possible!
Being “forced” to work things out amicably is not necessarily a bad thing. In fact, resolving disputes out of court is far less costly, stressful and upsetting, and makes it easier for you and your partner or ex-partner to shelter your children from the adult conflict. Getting into the habit of discussion, negotiation and compromise is a life skill worth cultivating.
A mediator can help you solve your dispute
You want to work things out but communication with your ex seems next to impossible? Goldwater, Dubé is there for you with expert mediation services.
In order to help families during this difficult time, when stress levels are high and financial resources are limited for so many, Goldwater, Dubé is exceptionally offering contactless mediation via secure video conference at the Quebec government rate (for those who qualify).
This is a rare opportunity to resolve your disputes with the help of highly experienced family lawyers acting as your mediator.
In order to qualify, you must have one or more dependent children.
If you do qualify, you will benefit not only from a reduced rate for mediation, but you will benefit from the first 5 hours of mediation at no cost, paid for by the Quebec government, for a first agreement; and then an additional 2.5 hours at no cost for the modification of an existing judgment.
If you do not qualify for the government program, please contact us to inquire whether you qualify for a special rate for mediation during the COVID-19 crisis. This is income-dependent.
Maximize your mediation sessions
To get the most out of the process, it is important to voice your needs and concerns. Preparation is also key. In order to maximize your sessions, you should come prepared with the following documents (but do not worry if you do not have all these documents ready for the first session):
- A copy of your marriage contract, if you signed one before a notary prior to marriage;
- Proof of income: usually this would be your two most recent income tax returns, two most recent notices of assessment and your three most recent pay stubs for the current year;
- A list of your assets and liabilities, at the present time and at the date of your separation. Be sure to have supporting documents to establish the value of each asset and liability;
- You will need to prepare a budget with monthly expenses, if part of what you will be negotiating is spousal support;
- If custody or access rights are going to be part of your discussion, come prepared with different schedules that you think would work for your family. Remember to take your children’s specific routines and schedules into consideration;
- Once you have reached an agreement, you will need a copy of your birth certificate, your spouse’s birth certificate, and the birth certificates of your children, along with your original marriage certificate, in order to obtain a divorce judgment. If you are not married, you will still need your children’s birth certificates so that we may obtain a judgment that ratifies your settlement.
In all families where there are children, child support and/or spousal support, a final agreement should be ratified by the Court to protect all family members and ensure an agreement will be respected. We handle this simple process.
Mediation is a process. It takes time and patience. Engaging in a positive dialogue is the important first step. Then there is plenty of time to review documents once you and your partner or ex-partner have established your common desire to work things out without a fight.
If mediation is not for you, our team is still here to support you, to provide counsel, or to take your case to court.
To learn more about mediation, visit our Mediation Resources page at GoldwaterDubé.com for frequently asked questions, profiles of our mediators Me Marie-Hélène Dubé and Me Leanne Greenberg, and to contact our office for a consultation.
Photo: Timothy Eberly // Unsplash