We often talk about your professional lives on the Ask a Vexxpert podcast, but on this week’s episode, we dive into the personal side of things—it’s truly all interconnected. If your relationship is on the rocks and getting worse, it's only a matter of time before it affects your work life. This week, we welcomed renowned family lawyer Robynne Kazina to the show.
Since COVID began, family lawyers have been busier than ever, and from North America to Asia, we’ve seen headline after headline citing that demand for family lawyers is on the rise. But it may not be for the reason you think. In this week’s episode, Robynne shared some of these trends with us and helped to demystify the practice of family law.
To start things off, Robynne shared her path to finding her calling in family law. Prior to law school, she worked in the field of social work and on this path, she discovered what a powerful tool the law is for equality and systemic change. She explains how her path through social work and law led her to fulfill her long-term goal of helping people in a substantive and systemic way.
So often, when we think of family law, we think of divorce. But there is so much more to it. Robynne is an expert in all aspects of family law and has a strong background in adoption and fertility law, and for those needing help in this area, she’s the sole expert in Manitoba with this specialization.
Family structures have evolved and become more fluid over the years, but Manitoba laws haven’t changed since 1986. Robynne describes how the out-of-date fertility laws in Manitoba currently only equates a parent as those having biological children – the law needed to catch up, so that’s where she stepped in.
Robynne highlights her involvement in bringing substantial change to these out-dated Manitoba fertility laws this past November. She represented seven LBGTQI+ couples and successfully challenged that the current Manitoba legislation is discriminatory against same-sex parents. They aren’t treated fairly under the law based on how their children are conceived. As a result of this case, the Manitoba Government is forced to pass legislation by 2021 to ensure all parents are treated the same under the law. A distinction that she holds near and dear to her heart, Robynne has also been recognized by the Canadian Bar Association’s Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity Community Section for an Ally Award, which is awarded to one person across Canada for having advanced equality for the LGBTQ+ community.
Law changes such as these have the to power bring a province in line with the times, change lives and societal views. Robynne reflects on the countless stories from same-sex parents on how “they are treated differently or less than just because they didn’t give birth.” She further points to how societal views led to this feeling of ‘lesser than’ even though in every way they are equal parents.
Next in the episode, we asked Robynne how businesses can structure their policy to support the LBGTQI+ community and where to turn to inform these changes. She notes, “I think the best place to turn to are those in the community for insight and advice because no one can understand experience unless they have lived it. Engage people from the lesbian and gay community, and those different than yourself to understand their perspective."
This episode next dives into divorce and the many alternatives available. Robynne points to the importance of these alternatives financially and in preserving relationships, especially when children are involved.
Three Divorce and Separation Alternatives:
Collaborative law: A collaborative and holistic approach that involves lawyers, parenting coaches, financial advisors, and accountants trained to reach a solution out of court.
Mediation: A negotiation between disputing parties, assisted by an impartial and neutral professional and handled outside of court.
Arbitration: A neutral arbitrator has the authority to make a decision about the dispute. The benefit is that you hand select your decision-maker instead of putting it in the hands of a judge whom you don’t know and doesn’t know your kids personally.
Robynne's advice that she always gives her clients: you want to be those parents who can sit in the same auditorium for graduation and have a child who feels they can invite both parents to their wedding.
What about prenuptial and cohabitation agreements? Robynne advises that these are great options to create certainty before entering a common-law relationship or marriage. Although beneficial for financial matters, the limitation is that you can’t deal with matters involving your children in these agreements.
Other consideration’s Robynne says are important to know:
Family law is often under provincial law and differs from province to province.
Get a Prenuptial Agreement in advance – you don’t want to be scrambling before your wedding day.
Every province is different for the length of time at which a couple is considered common law. For example, Manitoba is three years, so you want to talk to a lawyer and get a Cohabitation Agreement before you hit the three-year mark.
Common-law is treated the same as a marriage (in Manitoba at least) in the eyes of the law.
In this episode, we further discuss how COVID-19 has been difficult for families. “Parents are stressed, exhausted and overwhelmed with the challenges that come with homeschooling.” Robynne points to the issues she has seen with separated parents and homeschooling during the pandemic.
The pandemic has added a new layer of difficulty to separation and divorce. Robynne highlights how difficult it is for people to separate in this time since people can’t find an apartment, go to a bank, and many have lost their jobs. There are also added concerns and situation difficulties around family violence and unsafe situations that arise from everyone being home.
We asked Robynne what businesses can do to help employees going through a divorce. She advises that business owners should be understanding about how stressful divorce is in the beginning. The first one or two months are difficult because they are often in crisis mode. Things do level out and calm down after that point.
So, what does the future hold in the world of law? To wrap up the episode, Robynne provides her expert insights:
Separation and divorce: Collaborative law and arbitration are being demanded more often, and there are studies that have shown that this is what’s best for the children. People want a resolution that fits them, and they have more control over.
Virtual work culture: It may be here to stay. She is beginning to see virtual trials, and there is an added benefit to technology that will likely continue post-pandemic. However, she looks forward to in-person meetings with clients again.