“Change the Profession”

“Change the Profession”

August 13, 2013 By Janko Predovic

People often ask me why I moved to collaborative practice and mediation so early in my career. The exchange below, which is from an appearance I had to make in Supreme Court, illustrates the reason precisely.

I was attending on behalf of a client who had been engaged in a difficult and long battle with her ex, who I think made it his post-divorce goal to complicate all matters pertaining to parenting the pair’s two young children. (I was an Articled Student at the time and was thrown into the mix of this case well beyond any type of sensible resolution was possible.)

On this particular occasion, I attended court to secure an order that Dad pay his half of a $99.00 annual membership for Brownies for his daughter, and to ensure that he actually took her to Brownie events during his parenting time (cookie-selling, camping, and the like). I was worried Dad would try to frustrate the court order by booking other events on top of Brownie events, something he had tried to do before with soccer practices. I tried to resolve the Brownies issue by letter various times prior to attending court, but had received no meaningful response.

So, because Brownies was starting that very week and I had no meaningful response from Dad on the issue, I needed a court order that Dad pay his half of the $99.00 fee and take his daughter to the troop meetings. Unfortunately, Dad felt his money was better spent paying his lawyer upwards of $400.00 per hour to fight.

This took 2 days in court to resolve, plus one day which we spent waiting to be heard and never were. (That time was paid for too.) I’m guessing the total time spent on this court appearance was about 15 working hours per lawyer, for a total of about $4500.00 coming out of the family funds.

This appearance was a turning point: I decided I simply was not going back into a courtroom to argue this type of minutia ever again.

THE COURT: That’s a good idea. You know, you’ve both got to go back and tell your clients this has to end. This — no disrespect because I know it’s serious to them, and I know that for all intents and purposes there is no other way, but this happens too often in these courtrooms. It’s the semi-nonsensical definition of guardianship in the FRA that says what happens if you can’t agree. I’ve had parents come in here and argue to me whether children — and in the specific instance it was the son — should wear dress slacks or jeans. I have. I’ve had them come in and argue whether being enrolled in soccer and hockey is too much, whether it should only be one or the other or both.

It boggles my mind that people would reach into their pockets and pay thousands of dollars to a lawyer to come and ask a — I was going to say a moron like me — to start making those decisions for their children. Like I’m supposed to say you can’t go to Brownies, you can’t sell cookies, you can’t go to soccer practice. Unbelievable! Why would anybody put that decision in my hands? What is wrong with them? They can’t sit down like adults and just work that out? Turn that over to a total stranger? And you’re going to pay through the nose for the privilege of doing that?

You know, we deal with children being abused. We deal with one parent taking the child to some basement suite where all his friends are shooting up heroin and, you know, looking at pornography and the kid’s there. We deal with serious issues like that that have to be addressed. Whether you should sell cookies on Saturday? Mind-boggling!

Anyway, that’s my lecture. They’ve got to save themselves (a) the stress and aggravation of this and (b) the money, and it’s just simply not right to put those kind of relatively (to all the other things) relatively minor things, selling cookies, in the same boat as being in a room where people are shooting up heroin. Take care of those decisions and handle it. Don’t send those kind of minor things to some judge every time you have a dispute.

OPPOSING LAWYER: Is this an invitation for me to argue costs?

THE COURT: No, it’s not.

MR. PREDOVIC: Is it an invitation for me to argue costs?

THE COURT: No, it’s not. Don’t come back and argue whether the boy should have Adidas or Nike on his feet.

MR. PREDOVIC: I would love nothing more than to never have to discuss these issues again.

OPPOSING LAWYER: Change profession.

THE COURT: Or change the profession. All right. We’ll see everybody back at two o’clock.

MR. PREDOVIC: Thank you.


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