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Knowledge is power: pre-divorce workshop guides clients through process

By Staff

Taking time to strategize before diving into divorce can save people money in the long run, Toronto family lawyer and divorce recovery coach Leanne Townsend tells

Given the emotional turmoil that comes with a disintegrating marriage, Townsend, a partner with Brauti Thorning LLP, says she understands the impulse for newly separated spouses to enter legal proceedings “with guns blazing.”

But her pre-divorce workshop is designed to help clients resist that temptation, and take a step back to assess their situation.

“I’ve seen so many people who come out of the gate going for the jugular, only to realize later, after spending thousands of dollars on legal bills, that it wasn’t necessary,” Townsend says. “People who work with me to come up with a well-thought-out strategy will end up saving money, which can benefit them and their children, instead of going into legal fees.”

“When you’re contemplating a divorce, there is a great deal you need to consider before you get into the thick of it,” she adds.

For example, she says many people rush into choosing legal representation.

“They know they need to get a lawyer and go with the first person that a friend or family member refers them to, regardless of whether they are a good fit,” Townsend says.

During pre-divorce workshop sessions, Townsend helps clients fully explore the myriad possibilities for representation, and figure out which ones best suit their needs.

“Maybe you want to try alternative dispute resolution methods such as mediation, or collaborative law,” she says. “For some people, a more aggressive approach is what they want. Whatever your preference, you don’t want to end up hiring the wrong person.”

In addition, Townsend helps attendees at her workshops take practical steps to prepare themselves for the process that lies ahead.

“For example, they will have to organize their financial documentation and may need to take other steps to protect themselves, so the aim is to get all their ducks in a row before beginning the process,” she says.

For many people, a divorce will mark their first experience with the legal system, and Townsend’s divorce management workshops provide them with a supportive hand to guide them through it.

“Divorce is considered one of life’s most stressful events, but people don’t tend to realize beforehand how traumatic it can be,” she says. “It means big changes to your identity as a newly single person, and as a parent. People don’t always think of these things, so it can be helpful to have someone coaching them through it.”

Townsend's workshops act as a complement to the legal service provided by her clients’ lawyers.

“For many people, their lawyer is their main support person, which means they can end up playing the roles of friend and therapist in addition to that of a legal advocate. But when you’re paying legal fees, it’s better to let them focus on legal work,” she explains. “When a coach is helping with the emotional issues people are going through, it frees up the lawyer to work on what they are specifically qualified to do.”

Townsend says her own legal training is an added bonus for her coaching clients.

“Even though I’m not giving legal advice in that role, I can draw on my own understanding of the law and the practicalities of the legal system, which is something many coaches can't offer,” she says.

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