Thursday, August 17, 2006

Family Justice Counselors

It’s Joni calling again. I spoke to her a few weeks ago about a debt collection matter. That worked out fine, she says. She’s not getting hassled anymore about that, but now she has a new problem.

It seems that she and her former common law partner, Bruno, are not seeing eye to eye about their daughter, Roxanna, age eleven. Since they broke up about three months ago, Roxanna has been living with Joni, and Bruno has been having Roxanna over to his place every other weekend. Apparently, Bruno feels this should be increased to every weekend, since Joni has her all week. Joni thinks this is ridiculous, since during the week Joni’s at work and Roxanna’s in school. In the meantime, Bruno has been paying $250 per month child maintenance, though he did miss one month.

As it seems that Joni and Bruno can talk to each other, though they have their differences, I recommend that they take the Parenting After Separation course offered for free by the family justice department of the Ministry of the Attorney General. It’s a three-hour information session for separated parents who are dealing with child custody, guardianship, access and support issues. The idea is help parents make rational and informed decisions based on the best interests of their children.

I also recommend that they meet with a Family Justice Counselor. Family Justice Counselors are accredited mediators, and one of the things they do is to help separated parents come to agreements on custody, guardianship, access and support issues. Such agreements are legally binding and can be filed with the courts.

If they can’t work out an agreement, the other option is going to court. Hopefully this won’t be necessary, but if it starts to look like it is, she can give us a call back.

In the meantime I will mail her a booklet called “Living Common Law,” which has a section dealing with the legal issues when breaking up.

I also note that in addition to child support, she could claim spousal support. She is quite adamant that she does not want this from him, but just in case, I point out that if she changes her mind, she must file a court action within one year of the date they stopped living together.

That seems to do it for now. She thanks me for my help, and I tell her she’s very welcome.

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