Laurelle practices primarily in family law because you and your children deserve nothing less than a lawyer dedicated to helping you resolve your family law matters. We can help in the following ways:
- Case Assessments
- Lawyer-Assisted Negotiation
- Unbundled Services: limited retainers to help you with only certain aspects of your case
Click on the tabs below for more information about our services and our approach.
Sometimes, despite their best efforts, people simply cannot agree on one or more major issues. When parties cannot resolve matters by negotiation or mediation, it may become necessary to have a third party make the final decision. Traditionally, parties accessed the third-party making decisions through a litigated court process. Litigation is more expensive than other resolution methods and almost always involves delays in obtaining a decision from a judge.
When parties cannot resolve one or more issues through negotiation or mediation, they may appoint a qualified person to make decisions for them. The person appointed to make the decision is a called an “arbitrator” under The Arbitration Act of Manitoba. When you hire an arbitrator, they are effectively your private judge.
In a family law case, an arbitrator can make virtually the same decisions as a judge would in court. In effect, the arbitrator’s decision or “award” becomes a court order.
There are several advantages to choosing arbitration to resolve family law issues:
- Parties can engage in a blended mediation-arbitration process, where the arbitrator first acts as a mediator and only engages in arbitration when one or more issues remain unresolved;
- Parties are able to have more influence over who will make these important decisions by choosing your arbitrator, since you cannot choose your judge in court;
- Court proceedings are usually open to the public, and most documents filed in court cases can be accessed by any member of the public. Arbitration is a private process so that sensitive and personally difficult processes can be handled confidentially;
- Because the parties and the arbitrator set the schedule for hearings and argument, the scheduling delays often inherent in the court system can be avoided;
- Arbitration processes can be informal and relaxed, or more formal and “court like”, depending on the parties’ needs and the issues to be resolved. Whether formal or informal, arbitrations usually take place in a lawyer’s office;
- As a result of the formality and procedural requirements required in litigation, arbitration is a more cost-effective way to obtain a resolution to your family law matter than engaging the court system.
In Manitoba, only lawyers with at least ten years of experience are permitted to arbitrate family law matters. With Laurelle, you will be engaging a neutral decision-maker experienced in family law with the sensitivity to understand the importance and impact of an arbitration award on the parties and their children. As a member of the Family Arbitration and Mediation Legal Institute (FAMLI), Laurelle has training and credentials which far exceed minimum requirements in Manitoba, and has formal training in both family mediation and family arbitration.
Because engaging in arbitration means having a third party make a decision which has the force of a court order, parties who wish to engage in arbitration in Manitoba must obtain legal advice from a lawyer independent of the arbitrator so that each person understands the risks and benefits of engaging in arbitration.
As with a mediator, the parties normally share the cost of the arbitrator whose hourly rate will be comparable to that of most lawyers’ hourly rates. In many cases private arbitration will cost parties less than litigation.
Mediating a family law matter involves clients meeting with a neutral third party, called a “mediator”, who facilitates resolution of some or all family law issues. Laurelle is trained in mediation generally and in family mediation specifically; she can help parties resolve their matters by encouraging and supporting collaboration between them.
There are advantages to engaging a mediator to help resolve your family law matter, including:
- Mediation is usually less expensive than litigation;
- Mediation can bring a faster and often more satisfying result than litigation;
- The parties determine what their resolution will be; there is no court or judge making orders that either side may deem unpalatable;
- A consensual resolution usually results in less acrimony and resentment which operates to the benefit of the children who might be caught “in the middle”.
Mediation is almost always less expensive than litigation in court, and is a process in which the parties determine what is best for them as individuals as well as for any children they may have, rather than having that decision made by a third party.
While anyone can be a mediator in Manitoba, there is a benefit to engaging a mediator who has both experience practicing family law and has completed training specifically in the area of family mediation to act as your mediator. As a member of the Family Arbitration and Mediation Legal Institute (FAMLI), Laurelle has training and credentials which far exceed minimum requirements in Manitoba, and has formal training in both family mediation and family arbitration.
While a mediator cannot give legal advice to either party to explain the benefits and drawbacks of a resolution to each client individually, a mediator who is also a family practitioner can give accurate family law information to both clients. Clients also receive the benefit of the mediator’s experience in resolving family law cases.
Mediation can be flexible to meet the parties’ needs and can be of assistance to parties who are either at the beginning of their resolution process, or later, when other methods of dispute resolution have not been effective in resolving some or all of their matter.
It is possible to mediate family law matters with or without your own lawyer. Having lawyers present can be of assistance, since you can obtain legal advice on the spot, and this can simplify the process and make resolutions happen more quickly. Usually, if the parties reach an agreement through mediation without lawyers present, it is not binding on them until each client’s respective lawyer approves the settlement.
A mediator cannot give either party legal advice, so parties are each strongly encouraged to obtain independent legal advice from their own lawyer before entering into a formal agreement based on the settlement in mediation.
Mediation is a voluntary process; for it to work, both parties must be willing to work with each other to craft their own resolutions with the help of their mediator. Mediation may not be the right process for some parties; prior to engaging in mediation sessions, the mediator will meet with each party individually and confidentially to determine what each party’s concerns are and to screen for power imbalances and/or domestic violence.
Parties normally share the cost of the mediator, whose hourly rate will be comparable to that of most lawyers’ hourly rates.
Most family law matters are traditionally resolved using lawyer-assisted negotiation alone, or in combination with other services such as mediation or arbitration. Even when a matter proceeds through the court system by way of litigation, lawyer-assisted negotiation plays an important role in resolving your matter.
Negotiations can take place between lawyers on their clients’ behalf, and often also involve settlement meetings where clients meet with each other together with their lawyers, either in person or via videoconferencing.
Laurelle will help you to understand what your options are, advocate on your behalf, and provide you with advice so that you can decide what is best for your and your family.
Sometimes, there are legal issues which cannot be resolved by other resolution processes and litigating matters in court becomes the best or only available option.
At Harris Law Solutions, we treat court as a last resort for a number of reasons including:
- It is based on an adversarial model which can do lasting damage to families, especially where children are concerned;
- It can be the most expensive form of dispute resolution due to the formality of the process and rules governing court processes;
- Most documents filed in court are public documents and are available to anyone upon request;
- Court is usually a public process, that is, when a case is being heard in court the members of the public have the right to attend in the gallery;
- In Manitoba, there are prerequisites (things each party must do) before their matter can be heard by a judge. Interim hearings which result in an order to govern matters between the parties in the short term can take months to occur; hearings to resolve matters on a final basis can take a year or more to schedule once a client is ready to move ahead.
Having practiced in the area of family law her entire career, Laurelle has litigation experience in complex child custody, child support and spousal support cases, as well as property disputes involving businesses, corporations and family farms. Laurelle has litigated cases at all levels of Court in Manitoba, including the Manitoba Court of Queen’s Bench and the Manitoba Court of Appeal.
Before you can decide what kind of services may be right to help resolve your family law matter, you also need information about your rights, obligations, and options. During a case assessment, Laurelle will gather information from you and explain the legal principles that apply to your situation. Although there are many resources available to provide general information about family law, only a qualified lawyer can explain how the law applies to your particular situation, give you preliminary advice, and help you develop a roadmap to resolution.
Case assessments generally involve meeting with a lawyer for one to two hours, depending on the complexity of your situation.
For individuals who have simple matters to resolve or cannot afford to have a lawyer represent them, Harris Law Solutions can provide individual, “unbundled” services to a self-represented party:
- Case assessments
- Early and ongoing legal and strategic advice
- Draft court documents
- Legal Research
- Advice about court processes and other mechanisms for resolution.