A fresh perspective on divorce, spousal support, child support, parenting after separation and everything family law

Men: what to wear to court

There are lots of general guidelines online for men about what to wear to court, such as: what you would wear to church, an office job interview or “business casual”.  When preparing for family court, I advise men to wear something they feel comfortable in and that shows respect for the court.

However, these general descriptions can be interpreted in many different ways – something you feel comfortable in could be a bath robe, there are lots of different interpretations of “something that shows respect for the court”, and what you wear to church might not be what everyone wears to church.

I asked our resident fashion expert, Carey Davies, to help me create a head-to-toe list of what to wear to court.

A good look for men (from top to bottom) is:

  • A neutral colored dress shirt, ironed, that is clean and properly fitted (also consider that court may be stressful so wear a shirt that doesn’t show sweat);
  • A neutral colored suit jacket or sports coat as it may be cold in the courtroom (note: a “sports coat” is NOT an Adidas track jacket );
  • Ironed slacks (black, navy, grey, or khaki);
  • Dark dress shoes that match your pants; and
  • Dark socks that match your shoes.

Also consider, accessories:

  • A tie – if you wear a tie in your every day life, I would suggest wearing a tie to court.  If you don’t wear a tie in your every day life I would not suggest wearing a tie (it might get uncomfortable and look unnatural).  The tie issue is covered in more detail in this useful Wall Street Journal Article.
  • Cufflinks – again, if this is part of your normal day to day wear, you might want to include these.  If you are bringing an application and/or giving evidence to your difficult financial situation it is best to avoid wearing flashy accessories – no gold cufflinks or Breitlings.
  • A sweater – a dark v-neck sweater you can wear over your dress shirt might be a good idea if the weather is cold; or
  • A briefcase, laptop bag or satchel to keep your documents in (always best to be organized before you get to the court room).

Also consider, grooming (See Oprah’s top ten tips):

  • Remove piercings;
  • Cover tattoos;
  • Very light (or no) cologne;
  • Clean cut hair style; and
  • Tidy facial hair or no facial hair.

Getting dressed for court does not mean that you have to buy all new clothes.  There are probably things in your closet that will work well.  You can also consider borrowing something from a friend or relative.  If you feel more confident in a new shirt, there are usually some deals on men’s basics (going to court does not require a $300.00 shirt from Harry Rosen).  Finally, before leaving the house for court it may be a good idea to get a second opinion about what you are wearing – ask a friend who has good style and judgment, your lawyer, or your family (do not ask your soon to be ex-partner on the other side of your divorce).


Mediation: what to expect and how to prepare

Lots of people consider mediation as an option to work toward resolution of their family law matter without knowing exactly what to expect from the mediation process.  Is this what mediation is going to be like?

No – it is unlikely that your mediation will be like a scene from the Wedding Crashers.  The mediator will  not sing songs played at your wedding – or even ask about your wedding (note – if you do have a story about a mediator singing in your mediation please feel free to share!) and the mediators probably will not look like Owen Wilson and Vince Vaughn…(once again, please feel free to share).  Like the video from the Wedding Crashers, mediators will often refocus and reframe the negative to work towards a constructive resolution of issues between you and your spouse.

In preparing for a mediation, there are lots of resources available on the internet and at the public library that can help you prepare for mediation and supplement the information your lawyer provides to you, as discussed below.

Deborah Lynn Zutter‘s book, “Divorce Mediation: What You Need to Know“, sets out the general process to expect for a mediation (although mediation practices differ based on the mediator and the parties’ needs):

  • Once the parties agree to a mediation they will contact a mediator to determine who is appropriate to mediate their case;
  • The parties will mutually select a mediator;
  • The mediator will meet with both spouses (usually independently of each other) for an initial meeting to review and sign an agreement to mediate with each spouse;
  • The mediator will have one (or a series) of mediation meetings with both spouses and their lawyers (if the spouses choose to involve their lawyers);
  • The mediator may create a summary after each meeting to record decisions that have been made or points that have been brought up by both parties;
  • Once the mediation is concluded, if an agreement is reached, a document setting out the terms of the agreement will be drafted – either by the mediator, the parties, or their lawyers;

A detailed description of the mediation process can also be found on JP Boyd’s website.  JP Boyd’s website also has a useful list of things to do and things not to do in mediation. I guess the parties in the Wedding Crashers missed this one:

  • Negotiations are stressful, but don’t use drugs or alcohol to calm your nerves. Drugs and alcohol will impair your judgment and reduce your ability to be objective.

The Ministry of Justice has a useful question-and-answer guide to mediation, including a summary of how to prepare for mediation:

Think about some important questions before you go to the mediation, such as:

  • What is the best outcome that you could reasonably hope for?
  • What is the worst outcome you should prepare for?
  • What are you most concerned about and what can the other person do to respond to those concerns?
  • What is the other person most concerned about and what can you do to respond to those concerns?
  • What are your options if you do not reach a settlement in mediation?


Written Notice: what constitutes written notice of a breakup these days?

Guest Blogger Jane Marsden

By Guest Blogger: Jane Marsden, Articled Student, Hart Legal

Any true Sex and the City fan will know that one of the harshest ways to be broken up with is by a Post-it-Note.

When the “Post-it-Note Episode” aired, my friends and I were outraged (yes, we know it’s only a show…).  In this episode, Carrie Bradshaw’s boyfriend, Jack Berger, sneaks out in the middle of the night, leaving a post it note in his place which reads: “I’m sorry. I can’t. Don’t hate me.”

 However, maybe Berger’s breakup method wasn’t so callous after all…

"Perfect for the office romance?"

Although anything short of a face-to-face conversation seems like an incredibly rude and gutless way of breaking up with someone, these days a Post-it-Note almost seems like a personal, or, at the very least, private way of breaking it off.  

While the Post-it-Note Episode aired less than ten years ago, a lot has changed in that short amount of time.  Since then, Facebook, MySpace and Twitter have become, for many, primary means of communication; they have added a whole new dynamic for people trying to navigate relationships and love.

According to my Google search (“facebook breakups”), and stories from friends, it’s all too common.

Social networking sites raise a number of interesting legal issues, including, does a Facebook status change constitute written notice of a breakup?

For example, it is not uncommon for unmarried couples to enter into cohabitation agreements before they start living together, or before they get married.  Couples enter into these agreements for a variety of reasons, such as having children from a previous relationship, wanting to protect assets, or setting out each other’s expectations for the day-to-day workings of the relationship.

A common clause in the cohabitation agreement provides that the parties’ relationship will be deemed to have ended on the first of the following events to occur:

  1. the parties live separate and apart as a result of a breakdown in the relationship for a continuous period of more than 90 days;
  2. the date a court grants an order recognizing that the parties have no reasonable prospect of reconciliation with each other; or
  3. the date a party delivers a written notice to the other that the relationship is terminated.

So the question is: is it enough for your partner to change his or her Facebook status from “in a relationship” to “single” for this to constitute “written notice” that the relationship has come to an end?

Although Canadian courts have yet to explore this specific issue, we do know that social networking sites have come up in matrimonial cases; usually around evidentiary issues.  In one recent case, W.M.W. and K.C.M. v. J.W. and M.M., Judge T.S. Woods considers Facebook evidence to show the nature of  a relationship:

 I must acknowledge in this connection that there is evidence to show that Biological Mother JW is in a new, live-in relationship with the individual to whom I have referred as “Boyfriend JG”.  However, the evidence also shows that that relationship has had its volatile moments.  A printout of messages published on Biological Mother JW’s Facebook page reveals that as recently as October 30-31 of this year (shortly before the hearing), she considered that Boyfriend JG had unceremoniously “dumped” her. 

The Guardian cited a 2010 survey by the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers which states that four out of five lawyers have reported that increasingly, divorce cases have relied on evidence taken from social networking sites.

It seems to be only a matter of time then before the courts will be called upon to decide whether someone’s change of Facebook status change is enough to constitute written notice that the relationship is over.

Divorce: how do I select the right lawyer to represent me?

How do I find a lawyer to represent me in my family law matter?

When you are selecting a lawyer to represent you in your family law matter it is important to consider a number of factors, for example:

  1. Recommendations and referrals of people you trust – think of people whose opinion and feedback you respect – a close friend, a family member, a trusted professional like your accountant, a lawyer you use for other legal matters, or a trusted colleague.   It is a good sign if someone who has used a lawyer before has great things to say about his or her services;
  2. Experience – has the lawyer you are meeting with handled a case similar to yours, does the lawyer focus on family law (or is it something they do once in a while).  These are important considerations – I wouldn’t get my hair colored by someone who only does hair cuts;
  3. Fees – find out how your lawyer charges for his or her services and think about what you are willing to pay.  Keep in mind that the lawyer who charges the least for their services might not be the best option.  The cost of legal services is variable depending on the region you live in.  Determine what a reasonable rate is in your area (for example, your friend who lives in Toronto might have to pay a higher rate than you).
  4. Comfort level:  You will want to make sure you feel comfortable with the lawyer who is going to represent you and that they appreciate and listen to your goals.  Some lawyers charge for a initial consultation but it is worth spending the money to make sure you select the right lawyer.   It is reported that Heidi Klum interviewed a number of divorce lawyers in Los Angeles when deciding who she would get to represent her.
Sue Talia’s book, How to Avoid the Divorce from Hell: (and dance together at your daughter’s wedding) provides a comprehensive checklist which expands on the ideas above.  Sue Talia also provides a list of “Six Questions Not to Ask Your Prospective Lawyer” including:
  • “Are you really tough?”
  • “What is your win/loss record?”
  • “What is your track record against Attorney X?”
  • “Can my husband bribe the judge?”
  • “You’re a woman, so won’t you side with my wife?”
  • “My husband is SO intimidating…are you sure you can stand up to him?”

Family Court: what not to wear

Clients ask me all the time: what should I wear to court?

"Do not wear - even if you are seeking a no contact order"

I advise clients to wear an outfit that they feel comfortable in, that conveys respect for the court, and that is something they consider appropriate to wear to an interview for an office job.   I wear a suit to court (black or dark grey usually), so I don’t have to put too much thought into what I am going to be wearing each day.

For people who don’t attend court regularly, I will be publishing two blogs later this month about what to wear to court (one for men and one for women).

This blog is about what not to wear to court.   I have actually seen people wearing all of the items listed below to court over the years.   If you are heading to a day in court, do not wear the following:

  • T-Shirts (especially with offensive language or drug references – sorry Allie, no hello Kitty T-Shirts either);
  • Exercise clothing (no lululemon);
  • Clothing showing lots of skin (sleeveless shirts, short shorts/skirts, low cut tops, stomach bearing tops, anything showing your underwear or tattoos);
  • Flip-flops and beachwear;
  • Hats, sunglasses, excessive jewellery;
  • Clothing that is too small or too large;
  • Political apparel (what if the judge does not share your enthusiasm for the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society and PETA?);
  • Stained, ripped and dirty clothing; and
  • Sports jerseys.

Some other ettiquite points to consider when attending court include:

  • Turn off your cell phone (if you absolutely cannot miss a call put it on vibrate);

    "No coffee in court"

  • Do not listen to music (no i-pod, no ear buds);
  • Arrange child care well in advance so you do not have to bring your children to court with you;
  • Avoid chewing gum;
  • Do not bring food or drinks (aside from water) into the court room;
  • Do not smoke; and
  • Be on time.


Reddit My Divorce

RedditReddit.com is one of my favorite websites.  I go there almost every day to check news and important things on the internet.  This weekend I decided to search reddit for “divorce” -I should not have been surprised that there were about 5,400 results in 0.663 seconds (but I was).

There were funny threads and insightful threads.  Some of the threads  that I found most interesting (a mix of funny, serious and newsworthy) were:

There are so many different threads and posts on reddit.com that I had to stop reading (and get back to work).   While it is generally not possible to verify the identity of people posting on the internet, reading posts like these does provide useful insight into the perspective of others.

***Please note that some of the language used on the attached links is not safe for work (and the views expressed do not necessarily represent the views or opinions of Hart Legal…or Christine Murray).