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Chaiton-Murray takes practical, resolution-focused approach to family law

Toronto family lawyer Erin Chaiton-Murray is enjoying the balance between independence and support in her most recent role as senior associate at Fogelman Law. She has been with the boutique Toronto family law firm since principal Herschel Fogelman founded it in September 2016.

“This has been a really good opportunity to continue to grow my own practice, but also to have Herschel’s experience and knowledge next door for advice or feedback when needed,” she tells AdvocateDaily.com.

While Fogelman concentrates on mediation and arbitration, Chaiton-Murray handles the bulk of the firm’s file and litigation work. And although the nature of their practices differ in focus, the two are alike in approach.

“We’re both practical and resolution-focused,” Chaiton-Murray says. “For me, even if a matter is in litigation, it doesn’t mean you can’t look for a solution.”

That means spending time completing a cost-benefit analysis with clients, not just considering the actual monetary costs, but also weighing the personal price of pursuing what is frequently a high-stress process.

“That is the kind of conversation I have frequently,” she says. “How can we bring this to a conclusion in a way that the client feels is fair, and without too much damage done to your health and your finances.”

Many of Chaiton-Murray’s cases go through alternative dispute resolution, including mediation and arbitration.

And even for those that go to court, she opts for a reasoned approach.

“In a litigation matter, you can still aim to resolve some issues,” she says. “Narrowing things to only what needs to be judicially determined. Approaching it in a logical and tempered way so you aren’t wasting time and money.”

Chaiton-Murray is well-trained in cutting through the intense emotions that often accompany divorce to keep clients on point. She graduated from the joint law and social work program at the University of Toronto in 2008, and the blend of disciplines gave her a varied toolbox of skills in the law as well as understanding relationship and family dynamics.

“There are difficult issues, and people are not coming to you at their best,” she says. “It’s a balance between appreciating the emotions, and being able to identify that’s what going on, but also redirecting towards the legal situation to say, ‘these are the practical steps, these are the potential outcomes, how do you want to get there?’”

Called to the bar in 2009, Chaiton-Murray offers a range of services, including acting for clients in high-conflict and complex support, property, custody and access matters.

She is particularly interested in layered cases that involve a combination of parenting, support, property and other issues. She also enjoys those that reflect broader social issues, as in a recent mobility case, in which a parent was successful in her bid to relocate outside the city because of the cripplingly high cost of living.

“It was quite topical,” Chaiton-Murray says. “Everyone is talking about how the crazy real estate market and the increasing costs to live in Toronto, and that was one of the important factors in this case.”

Her caseload is varied.

“I don’t think people always appreciate the full scope of what a family law practice can involve,” she says.

Along with separation and divorce proceedings, she does a fair amount of marriage contracts and cohabitation agreements, representing parties on either side of the negotiations.  

“There are interesting dynamics at play in these files,” she says. “I always find that work interesting because it’s a little glimpse into how relationships work, and how parties are forced to have those often uncomfortable conversations about how they view their future together.”

Chaiton-Murray thrives on the variety of her practice, including the various forms a contemporary family may take, the changing nature of roles over the course of a marriage, and other factors that make each case unique.

That’s why family law is so interesting,” she says. “It’s never the same thing.”

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