View from the Driver’s Seat: Banaszek Family Law prepares you for your initial consultation with a family lawyer

Working up the courage to attend at an initial consultation with a family and divorce lawyer is a hurdle for many people to overcome. Many people believe that they must be prepared to walk away from their relationship or be prepared to endure protracted litigation if they are scheduling a meeting with a lawyer. Adrianna Banaszek, family lawyer and founder of Banaszek Family Law, explains that this perspective should not be the norm, and illuminates why initial consultations are very important meetings for her and her clients:

“The most rewarding aspect of my job is empowering people dealing with family law issues so that they feel less hopeless during an emotional and very stressful transition in their life. When I meet with clients for the first time, I focus on gaining an understand of where they would like to see themselves, and their families, in the future.

Every client has a different definition of “resolution”. During the initial consultation, I focus on understanding what each client perceives to be a resolution of their matter because that will inform the legal options I propose and the level of representation I can offer. The decisions made as a result of the legal advice obtained can have significant impacts for the client and their family, and that aspect of the initial consultation is never taken lightly by me.”

What is an initial consultation?

At Banaszek Family Law, initial consultations provide the opportunity for clients to canvas their questions about their family law and divorce matter. The lawyer’s job is explain the legal framework and the available options to move towards a resolution. Some clients wish to use their initial consultation as an opportunity to obtain independent legal advice about a discrete issue so that they may confidently take next steps as a self-represented litigant. Initial consultations are also an opportunity for clients to interview lawyers before retaining them. The initial consultation should provide the client with insights into the lawyer’s ability to communicate confusing concepts in an understandable manner, and confirm if the lawyer is the right fit as a legal representative in a very personal matter.

The meeting with the lawyer is completely confidential - this means that the lawyer cannot share anything about the conversation you have with anyone else, unless it would be valuable to do so and permission from the client is first obtained. The lawyer is also precluded from representing your spouse/the opposing party in the future, so there is no reason to worry about the private information you are divulging being used against you in any manner. Whatever your desired purpose for the initial consultation, it is important that you come prepared to ensure that you reap all the benefits of the valuable meeting.

Preparing for your initial consultation at Banaszek Family Law

For many family law clients, the initial consultation is the first time they have ever explained their very personal concerns to a stranger. Due to nerves, stress, and the novelty of the experience, many clients do not take full advantage of their initial consultation. We have compiled 5 TIPS that will help you prepare for an initial consultation with Banaszek Family Law:

TIP 1: Complete the Initial Consultation Form

For starters, complete and send back the Initial Consultation Form before attending at your initial consultation. The From will be emailed to you once your consultation is scheduled with Banaszek Family Law. The Initial Consultation Form allows you to provide details about the parties involved and a description of your matter in advance of meeting with the lawyer. Jot down some of the questions you would like to have answered by the family lawyer – this will provide the lawyer with a heads-up of which issues should be prioritized so that they can better structure your consultation to take advantage of the scheduled time. There have been occasions where the Initial Consultation Form has confirmed that the client’s legal issue is not of a family law or divorce nature, allowing us to redirect the client to another lawyer in the appropriate practice area.

TIP 2: Prepare your documents (and bring them with you!)

You should bring the following documents and items to your initial consultation:

  • Your government-issued photo identification – the Law Society of Alberta and British Columbia require that the lawyer takes steps to verify the identity of the client. We will keep a scanned copy of your photo ID on file.

  • Filed Court documents – these documents will alert the lawyer to any upcoming Court dates or filing deadlines. Reviewing filed Court documents will also provide the lawyer with a better understanding of the opposing party’s position so that a comprehensive strategy that meets your needs can be prepared.

  • Your notes and any questions you may have (check out TIP 3 below). The initial consultation will go by very fast and we want to make sure that most of your questions are canvassed, so don’t leave it up to memory.

  • A notepad and pen - if you don’t bring your own, we will provide these for you so that you may note useful resources or information explained during the consultation.

TIP 3: Write down your questions

Jot down some of the questions you would like to have answered by the family lawyer in advance of stepping foot in their office, and bring them with you to the consultation. You will likely think up many questions you would like answered in the days (or hours) leading up to your consultation. Your list of questions will guide the consultation and increase the productivity of the meeting. The initial consultation goes by quickly and we want to make sure that most of your questions are canvassed, so don’t leave it all up to memory!

TIP 4: Know the history

Be prepared to outline a history of your litigation or a general overview of what has occurred since your separation/conflict arose, if relevant. For example, what has the parenting arrangement looked like since separation? How were the finances organized in the household during the marriage and after separation? If you come prepared to explain your situation, the consultation will run more smoothly.

TIP 5: Arrive on time

Once your initial consultation is booked, make sure you know where the lawyer’s office is located and how you are going to get there. It is important that you come on time to your consultation so that you are calm, collected and can take advantage of the entire time scheduled. We guarantee that there is an hour blocked off for your consultation.

Banaszek Family Law is located on the 30th floor of the TD Canada Trust Tower, downtown Calgary. We are conveniently located on the C-Train line at the 4th Street SW stop. If you are driving in, the CORE parkade is located on 4th Street, between 8th Avenue SW and 7th Avenue SW and is open during our hours of operation.

Disclaimer: Initial consultations should be MORE than a sales pitch 

If a lawyer only uses the initial consultation as a sales pitch and promises you the ‘moon and the stars’ but does not provide you with any valuable information, be weary of their ability to represent you. You should be comfortable with the family lawyer you hire because they will be representing your interests during what is usually a highly emotional and stressful time in your life. Use the initial consultation as a time to interview your potential new lawyer – remember, it’s a two-way relationship. The lawyer must understand your perspective, goals, legal and emotional budget. They must also be able to communicate legal issues in an understandable manner. The lawyer should be able to explain what they can do and what their limitations are (whether that be time constraints or general litigation constraints).

At Banaszek Family Law, we want to make sure that your initial consultation is productive and that you receive the necessary information to take next steps on your own, or understand what our involvement in your legal matter looks like. The initial consultation is your chance to interview your future family lawyer and confirm that the relationship is a good fit.

You are one click away from taking control of your life and finding answers to your family law and divorce questions. Make the next move by scheduling your initial consultation with Adrianna Banaszek today, by clicking HERE

Follow Banaszek Family Law on Twitter: @BanaszekLaw, Facebook, and LinkedIn.

Some Diamonds are NOT Forever: Who keeps the ring when an engagement is called off?

This week’s news is buzzing with Jennifer Lopez’s million-dollar engagement ring. After seeing J.Lo’s left hand droop under the weight of the diamond, even the most hopeless of romantics are left wondering: who gets to keep the iceberg ring if the relationship falls apart before the wedding?

Albertans who have called their engagement off (or who are contemplating it) may also be questioning if an engagement ring is treated like a traditional gift, or if it is possible for the giver to recover it when nuptials do not follow the proposal.

Alberta Law on Engagement Ring Returns

The general rule is that where an engagement is broken, the engagement ring must be returned to the person who “gifted” the ring because the condition of getting married was not fulfilled. Alberta Courts view engagement rings as “conditional gifts” because they are usually given on the condition that the parties will say their “I do’s”.

It is irrelevant who caused the break-up in determining the right of the giver to recover the gift. Unlike many Canadian provinces, Alberta has legislation which specifically outlines that if a person makes a gift to another “in contemplation of or conditional on their marriage” and if the marriage does not take place, fault will not be considered in determining who has the right to recover the gift (Family Law Act, s. 102). In short, the blameworthy party is not precluded from recovering the engagement ring.

After a couple marries, the condition on the gift is fulfilled and the engagement ring is owned by the person who received it. In the event of divorce, the giver will have a difficult time arguing that they should be able to recover the ring and it is unlikely that they will be successful. The expectation is that the couple will marry, not remain married indefinitely for the ring to remain with the receiver.  

Exceptions to the General Rule

In a recent Alberta Court of Queen’s Bench case, Bhachu v Brown, 2019 ABQB 150, Justice M.J. Lema found that the engagement ring should be kept by the party who received it, even though the condition of entering into a marital union did not take place. In Bhachu, the Judge found that the Defendant was entitled to keep the ring because of “the long period (five years) during which the parties were engaged with no evidence of concrete steps towards marriage” and he took into consideration that both parties gifted rings to each other (Bhachu, para 149).

The Court will look at the intention of the proposing party and whether there is any evidence which would confirm that the giver intended for the engagement ring to be kept even if the couple does not marry. If the proposer’s actions before or after separation show that the recipient should keep the engagement ring even if the parties do not wed, it is viewed as an “absolute gift” by the Court. Delay in requesting the ring back will be an indication that it was intended as a gift without any restrictions, and meant to be kept by the person who received it indefinitely.

Obtain Independent Legal Advice to Protect Your Interests

Couples can ensure the engagement ring, or any other asset, is protected in the event of relationship breakdown by entering into a cohabitation or marriage agreement. Couples may also enter into an agreement after they have married (a “post-nup”). Banaszek Family Law offers flat rates for these types of uncontested agreements.

You may require further legal advice on property division and adult interdependent partner support if you and your partner were in a common law relationship before separating. To help ensure that there are no doubts about who will keep the engagement ring or any other assets in your relationship before or after the marriage, consult with a family lawyer in your jurisdiction. Schedule an initial consultation with Adrianna Banaszek to find out how you can legally protect yourself and your assets, regardless of their monetary value ●

Follow Banaszek Family Law on Twitter: @BanaszekLaw and LinkedIn: Banaszek Family Law.