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

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Prenups are for Lovers: Banaszek Family Law dispels myths about marriage contracts

What is more romantic than giving your future spouse certainty about how you intend to divide your assets and debts upon separation (if irreconcilable differences crop up) before tying the knot? NOTHING. Adrianna Banaszek of Banaszek Family Law explains what prenuptial agreements are, and why they are becoming increasingly popular, especially among millennials.

Popular culture has depicted prenups as something the financially-advantaged partner would want to propose in an effort to preserve their wealth. The once thorny subject is becoming less taboo as more people understand the nuances of entering into a private agreement that governs your relationship.

What is a ‘Prenup’?

A Prenuptial Agreement (“prenup”) is a contract between two future spouses that settles issues of property and debt division, spousal support, or any other matters you wish to make crystal clear in the event of a party’s death or divorce. Entering into a prenup provides parties the opportunity to plan for the unthinkable, which is often difficult but very important. Having a binding plan in the event of a divorce, usually saves spouses money because their matters are already decided and do not need to be mediated or litigated. Plus, it’s much easier for most couples to make clear and fair decisions during the “honeymoon phase” instead of when they are questioning why they decided to walk down the aisle to Ben E. King’s Stand by Me in the first place.

If you do not enter into a prenup, you will be subject to the Divorce Act (Canada) and legislation of your jurisdiction. In Alberta, for the most part, assets and debts accumulated during the marriage will be divided equally, save for exemptions which may apply (like gifts, inheritances and windfalls). Just because you acquired an asset before you began your cohabitation or before marriage, does not mean it is exempt from division with your spouse. The increase in value of “pre-marriage assets” during the course of your marriage may be subject to equal division as well. If you do not want the legislation to automatically apply to your relationship if there is no agreement to settle matters amicably, entering into a prenup is a way of contracting out of this framework.

The Prenup Process

Bringing up your desire to enter into a prenup or a cohabitation agreement to your partner may be difficult. Some people relate entering into a marriage contract as a sign of distrust, a way of jinxing the relationship, or extinguishing the passion. It may be beneficial to book an initial consultation with a family lawyer before discussing the matter with your partner so that you have an overview of the laws affecting you while you are not covered by a prenup. If your partner is already on board with entering into a marriage agreement, take note that at Banaszek Family Law, we will only meet with one party to the agreement to protect your interests and to reduce the chances of the agreement being overturned.

Financial Disclosure Exchange

The exchange of complete financial disclosure between the parties to the agreement is part of the drafting process and one way of ensuring that the agreement is not overturned in the future. Sharing details about your assets (savings, property ownership) and debts/financial obligations (student and credit card debts, lines of credit, leases) with the person you intend to spend the rest of your life with puts both parties on an equal “knowledge” playing field. When each party’s financial picture is laid out on the table, the agreement to be entered into becomes more equitable. It also gives each party more information about one another so that when they make the legal decision to marry, they know what they are signing up for.

Independent Legal Advice

Once the agreement is drafted by our office and both parties have had the opportunity to review and approve its’ contents, each party should (read: must) obtain independent legal advice before entering into the agreement. This will require that your partner attends at a separate law firm and meets with a different lawyer to receive legal advice on the agreement and have their signature witnessed. Obtaining independent legal advice will help ensure that the agreement is not subject to being overturned because one party did not receive the full advantage of legal advice. Obtaining independent legal advice also significantly reduces the possibility that one party can overturn the agreement in the future by claiming that they entered into the agreement under duress or that they did not understand the legal impact of certain clauses of the agreement.

Prenups for the People

Prenups are no longer reserved for the famous and wealthy. Although pop culture often depicts prenups as a preservation tool for the rich party, the less wealthy spouse may also be protected under the agreement with the inclusion of clauses that benefit their position (often upon receiving independent legal advice on the agreement).

With common law relationships on the rise in Canada and Canadians waiting longer to get married, more spouses are bringing assets (and debts) into marriages rather than accumulating them all together as was the case in the past. Career and financial stability have become priorities before marriage for Canadian millennials (Cardus Family study, August 2016), which in turn increases the need for prenups. There is a cost/benefit analysis which needs to be undertaken in advance of entering into a prenup, and usually the benefit outweighs the cost because there is so much uncertainty in the future and many people want to keep what they worked hard to accumulate. Prenups are now, more than ever, for all people!

Final Thoughts

It is very difficult to plan for all of the variables that may form part of your life and marriage. Although your marriage agreement can take many possibilities into account, there is always room for making changes to the agreement if it is by agreement of both parties and will be solidified with independent legal advice. It is often beneficial to reevaluate and update your marriage contract before or after big life changes, such as a change of career of one or both of the spouses, or a shift in the family dynamic (for example, the addition of children into the picture and shifts in caregiver roles).

You are NOT precluded from entering into a marriage agreement if you are already married. Spouses may enter into a post-nuptial agreement (“postnup”) if they are in agreement about the terms following their “I Do’s”. The risk you run into with waiting to see how your spouse feels about entering into an agreement after the wedding date is the potential for rejection. If you do not enter into a prenup before the marriage is solemnized, and if your spouse does not consent to enter into a postnup, the Divorce Act (Canada) and legislation in your jurisdiction will apply if you separate.

Banaszek Family Law offers flat rates for uncontested family law agreements, including: prenuptial, postnuptial, and cohabitation agreements. Make the next move by scheduling your initial consultation with Adrianna Banaszek today, HERE

Banaszek Family Law is open for business downtown Calgary!

Adrianna Banaszek, founder of Banaszek Family Law, is thrilled to announce that the newest Calgary law firm will call the 30th floor of the TD Canada Trust Tower home! Adrianna is dedicated to providing quality, client-centered family law and divorce services for Albertans and British Columbians through her practice.

Banaszek Family Law offers full representation, legal coaching and unbundled legal services, flat rate agreements/divorces, and independent legal advice. Ask your questions and canvas your options by booking an initial consultation with Adrianna Banaszek today.

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