Kevin Caspersz tells clients not to leave issues like parenting to the mercy of the court
The prime minister’s post-separation plans are unusual but ideal, and set an excellent example for other couples splitting up, says family lawyer Kevin Caspersz.
Justin and Sophie Grégoire Trudeau’s recent announcement that they have signed a legal separation agreement included the details that they would continue to vacation together and maintain their family unit. The children – they have three: ages 16, 14, and 9 – will spend most of their time with the prime minister, but Gregoire Trudeau will move into a home nearby in Ottawa. Media reports noted that the couple will share parenting responsibilities.
A separation situation where the parties agree between each other on how to arrange the terms, deal with the kids, and organize the finances is optimal, says Caspersz, who recently founded the family law firm Caspersz Chegini LLP with Lisa Chegini.
“Any situation where the parties can agree amongst themselves is ideal because it's an agreement on their term and to suit their circumstances.”
On the other hand, when parties pursue resolution via litigation, they are ultimately at the court’s mercy. He says that by reading the pleadings and listening to oral submissions, the judge will do their best to understand the parties’ specific circumstances and hand down an order.
“As counsel, we always say that there are no better people to decide how the party should proceed following separation than the parties themselves.”
Caspersz says that no specific type of post-separation arrangement is necessarily ideal for all couples. What is ideal is cooperation. Couples must put aside whatever animosity exists and produce a plan which – if they have kids – puts their kids in the best position to thrive.
“Every party's circumstance and family dynamics are different.”
He says it is also important to draw clear lines around the issues. Just because parties are fighting over the matrimonial home, for example, that does not need to bleed into the areas where there is affinity.
“Let's sit down and figure out all the children's issues as it relates to parenting despite the fact that we're fighting about that other stuff on the side.”
Eighteen percent of Canadian children have endured the separation or divorce of their parents, according to Statistics Canada. Of those 1,185,700 children, 36 percent have regular visits with the parent who is not their primary caregiver, 21 percent split their time equally between the parents, but 19 percent have no contact with the other parent.
“Co-parenting should always focus on the best interests of the children,” says Caspersz. “As family lawyers, we’re always emphasizing the importance of this with our clients.”
When it comes to executing an amicable divorce and maintaining effective co-parenting, he says parties should always put the children first, minimize conflict, avoid litigation where possible, focus on common goals, compromise and collaborate, present a unified front for the children, be flexible about child-care arrangements, maintain respectful communication to and about their ex-spouse, and set boundaries.