Independent Legal Advice & Children’s Services
In addition to providing mediation and arbitration services in family law disputes, John-Paul Boyd Arbitration Chambers provides independent legal advice on family law agreements, including cohabitation agreements, marriage agreements, separation agreements and arbitration agreements, prepares views of the child reports, drafts children’s affidavits and provides legal advice to children.
Independent legal advice
Independent legal advice can be a necessity whenever someone is being asked to sign an agreement. Independent legal advice helps to make sure that the agreement is fair and that the person thinking about signing the agreement fully understands the current and future impact of the agreement and how the agreement affects their rights and responsibilities.
The most common kinds of agreements in family law are: cohabitation agreements, sometimes called living together agreements, that a couple may sign when they first move in to live together; marriage agreements, that a couple may sign before or shortly after they get married; and, separation agreements, that a couple sign after they have separated. Cohabitation agreements and marriage agreements are meant to address some of the legal issues that may come up if the couple later separates, to save them from having to resolve those issues through litigation or arbitration. These agreements usually deal with property interests and sometimes future claims to spousal support. Separation agreements are intended to resolve the legal issues arising from a separation that has already happened, including issues about parenting and the care of children, child support, spousal support and the division of property.
Other common family law agreements include assisted reproduction agreements, parenting agreements and property agreements.
If a couple are going to arbitrate a family law dispute, they will be asked to sign an arbitration agreement like the agreement available from John-Paul Boyd Arbitration Chambers. It is important to have a lawyer review the agreement to understand and appreciate how the agreement limits the parties’ right to litigate the issues being arbitrated, the extent of the confidentiality offered, how the arbitrator expects to be paid and other key terms of the agreement.
John-Paul Boyd has provided independent legal advice on family law agreements of all types since being called to the bar in 2000. His extensive experience providing public legal education, including writing the wikibook JP Boyd on Family Law, uniquely equips him to explain complicated legal concepts in plain language.
Views of the child reports
John-Paul Boyd has been preparing views of the child reports for use in family law disputes being resolved through litigation and mediation since 2007, and was instrumental in establishing the BC Hear the Child Society. These reports are commonly used to explore children’s thoughts about their parents’ separation and how they feel about the conflict between their parents. Sometimes these reports are used to address specific questions, about the extracurricular activities the child prefers, about a minor or temporary change to the child’s parenting schedule or about a letter, email or text the child has written. Views of the child reports give parents, mediators, arbitrators and judges valuable information about children’s wishes and preferences.
The views of the child reports available from John-Paul Boyd Arbitration Chambers are non-evaluative, meaning that they merely report what the child has said and do not editorialize or offer an opinion about the child’s views or the extent to which the views expressed by the child match the child’s actual wishes and preferences. They can be prepared inexpensively and quickly, often within a day or two depending on timing and availability.
Views of the child reports prepared by John-Paul Boyd have been cited by the Provincial Court, Supreme Court and Court of Appeal of British Columbia.
The use of children’s affidavits in legal disputes is something that should be avoided whenever possible. However, circumstances can arise when these affidavits are necessary, and they should not be drafted by the lawyers for either of parties involved in a family law dispute, or by lawyers working with those lawyers. In order to avoid any impression of influence, they should be prepared by an independent, neutral lawyer with no affiliation to either party.
The lawyer preparing the affidavit must work with the child to ensure that: the affidavit accurately reflects the child’s experience and recollections; the child appreciates the present and future implications of signing an affidavit to be used in a legal dispute; and, that the child understands the difference between telling the truth and telling a half-truth or lie. John-Paul Boyd is skilled at communicating with children and young people, establishing rapport and helping them tell their stories in a way with which they are comfortable.
Children’s legal advice
Children aged 12 and older may need legal advice when they are being asked to consent to something, like an adoption, a change of name or the appointment of a guardian. The consent of children younger than 12 generally isn’t required.
Although the need to obtain the child’s consent sounds like it’s just a matter of asking the child to say yes or no to something, a number of court decisions have pointed out that what the child must provide is informed consent. Informed consent means that the child needs legal advice from an independent lawyer about the meaning and effect of the decision he or she is being asked to make, and helps to ensure that the child is making up his or her own mind.
John-Paul Boyd is able to express complicated legal ideas in ways that children and young people can understand. He will prepare an affidavit explaining the information communicated to the child, explaining the child’s apparent understanding of that information and summarizing the child’s preferences for use in court proceedings when the consent of a child is necessary.
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