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Divorce tips settle out of courtDivorce education similar to that offered by Divorce Tool Box is among the “other means” that a new proposed law in British Columbia is encouraging divorcing couples to utilize in order to reduce costly legal battles by settling out of court. Helping divorcing parents avoid long, drawn-out emotional and financial battles relating to child custody, visitation schedules, child support, and other custody issues that many parents haven’t even considered before entering the legal arena on the road to divorce. Not only parents benefit from this preliminary preparation, but most importantly, so do their children, so that no one is looking back from a battle-weary perspective, having suffered even more from the wounds of divorce, saying “If only….”

The provincial government of British Columbia is overhauling its 33-year-old Family Relations Act in an effort to reduce costly legal battles by encouraging out-of-court settlements through mediation or other means. According toThe Vancouver Sun on November 15, 2011, the bill whose passage is all but assured, will not go into effect for 12 to 18 months, but Attorney-General Shirley Bond said, “The heart of the bill is really that the child’s interest will come first. Currently, the courts are used to a great degree. We want to see the court used as a last resort, not a first.”

Audrey Silcox, president and founder of Divorce Tool Box provides an online divorce program, agrees wholeheartedly. “I have long been an advocate of working through custody and other issuesbeforecouples enter the legal arena. During my 16 years in the divorce field, I have witnessed too many contentious and costly court battles--costly both financially and emotionally—that could have been avoided with some careful exploration and preparation prior to lawyers and court dates.”

She has observed that especially in amicable divorces, parents often assume that there will be no disagreements about child custody, visitation, child support, or custody during holidays, for example. But without prior specific point-by-point discussions of each of these issues and others, some nasty surprises and expensive battles can await. Avoiding those unfortunate scenarios, for the sake of those divorcing as well as for their children, is her goal.

Says Silcox, “I read recently of a custody lawyer, John Crouch, in Northern Virginia of the Coalition for Divorce Reform who frequently finds that incorrect assumptions, misinformation, and simply not enough depth of thought on the subject of child custody leads to serious conflicts when the time comes to actually forge custody agreements in divorce court. He quotes a husband as saying, ‘Everybody gets joint custody nowadays, right? I would never try to take the kids away from her. I’m happy to live with 50% of the kids’ time. They still need both parents, just like before we split up.’ Then Crouch says he got a call from the wife’s father who said, ‘That bum walked out of my daughter’s life and my grandchildren’s lives and how he’s trying to disrupt their lives even more with hisvisitation idea.’ Turns out, the wife was not in favor of 50/50 custody, and according to Mr. Crouch, ‘They discovered that they disagree profoundly about how they will do their job as parents.’ He adds that ‘The law won’t give them what they want unless their spouse agrees to it, and there’s a wide range of possible outcomes in court.”

Silcox explains, “Long before a judge, who, with a crowded docket and unaware of all family considerations in each case, is in the position to make decisions that will impact parents and children for years, I strongly encourage advance focus, preparation, and negotiation, as needed, through issues that are best dealt with even prior to attorneys getting involved. Among those issues: Will custody be joint, or only on weekends, or every other weekend? What about holidays and birthdays—especially if parents don’t reside nearby? What about summer schedules and vacation time? What if one or both of the parents remarries—how could custody agreements possibly shift with a new spouse? These are just some of the areas I explore in the online sessions of Divorce Tool Box.”

Silcox provides an online program to clients which can be viewed in the comfort and privacy of their own homes, or wherever they prefer. By participating in the online sessions, a customized action plan is created that addresses particular individual’s, couple’s or family’s needs and can help resolve issues before legal meetings and processes begin.

She says, “Custody lawyer John Crouch has seen, as have I from a different perspective-- including as a court-ordered family mediator--some terrible battles that everyone ends up wishing they had avoided.”

Says Crouch, “You can fight about custody until all the children are grown, or one parent runs out of money. Who wins depends on the money, and the will to keep fighting. As the process goes on, these innocent, well-meaning parents will learn in divorce court, nice guys usually lose, and that tactics which the system officially condemns—such as turning the children against the other parent, or filing frivolous motions just to harass or impoverish their spouse—work as intended more often than they backfire.”

Crouch goes on to say, “People caught up in the divorce system are not looking at the big picture. They’re outraged that their individual divorce didn’t measure up to their lofty expectations, and they’re blaming the other spouse, the other sex generally, the judge, and the lawyers. I am who people come to, to bridge the huge gap between their divorce fantasies and reality—and often, I’m who they blame for that reality.”

Concludes Silcox, “Mr. Crouch paints a vivid picture of what doesn’t have to be. If only divorcing parents would take the time, and at less expense than they will find once they’re in the legal arena, to explore and work through specific custody, as well as other issues, how different could be their outcome. Of course, tempers may flare during this process. And I’ve certainly dealt with that in my 16 years of helping individuals and families navigate through rough spots. But before lines get drawn in the sand and before everyone suffers enormously, including most regrettably, the children, Divorce Tool Box can be a Godsend. That’s why I’m here, doing what I do. And that new proposed law in British Columbia is progress in a direction I’d like to see in America.”

Divorce Tool Box is an online program for individuals or couples contemplating or currently undergoing divorce. Custody parenting plans, assets and liabilities, division of property and money matters including child support, along with emotional support are some of the issues addressed in customized, confidential, and online sessions to help people make wise decisions before entering the legal arena. This guidance can help ease a difficult process as well as save countless hours and costs in legal fees. Visit our website today at www.DivorceToolBox.com.

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