Not so scary: What to expect if you're going through divorce

The Community Legal Information Association of PEI is holding a free family law course next month designed to help people who are experiencing a custody or access dispute.

Free law courses focus on what's best for the children

Emotions can often run high for parents going through a marital breakup. (Shutterstock/auremar)

Many people involved in a marital break-up don't even know where to start when it comes to resolving a custody or access dispute.

Parents often experience fear and anxiety, and caught in the middle are often the children.

Every parent loves their child and wants the best for the child but sometimes parents will, in their fear and their distress, sometimes the kids aren't the first in vision.– Kelly Robinson

That's why the Community Legal Information Association of PEI next month is once again offering free family law courses, titled Best Interests of the Children.

"Every parent loves their child and wants the best for the child but sometimes parents will, in their fear and their distress, sometimes the kids aren't the first in vision," said Kelly Robinson, the program co-ordinator for the Community Legal Information Association of PEI, on Mainstreet P.EI.

"You'll get a lot of questions — 'what are my rights as a parent?' — when really we want to turn that around and say 'what are the rights of your kids in your divorce with your ex?' That way you come up with solutions that work for yourself and your ex but that works best for the well-being of your children."

Kelly Robinson, the program co-ordinator for the Community Legal Information Association of PEI. says it's important for parents going through divorce to put the best interests of the children first. (Angela Walker/CBC)

Robinson said people want to know what they can expect if they go to court, and what options are available outside court.

"I'm a big believer in mediation," she said.

Custody question

Then there's usually the question of who will get custody.

"There's still a lot of misconception out there that it is more likely the woman … but really the law is gender neutral," she said.

"That's certainly not to say that there aren't still some issues with gender equality in this area but they're for different reasons than legislation."

Feeling of relief

People who have taken the course in the past often leave feeling better, she said.

"The immediate feedback we would get would be relief — 'It's not as scary as I though. It's not slanted against me.'"

The sessions are run by Jenny Mason, a lawyer with child support guidelines office in Charlottetown. They are funded by the Law Foundation of PEI.

Robinson said it's important there be no cost to the participants.

'Money is incredibly tight'

"Many families, even families who we may consider middle income, you put a separation or divorce in there and suddenly money is incredibly tight," she said. "Divorce can be a time when people suddenly find themselves in poverty."

There are three sessions: Nov. 10 in Charlottetown, Nov. 17 in Montague and Nov. 30 Summerside. To avoid "upheaval or stress," exes are not allowed to take the course on the same day.

Those interested in attending can call 902-892-0853 or 1-800-240-9798 or email clia@cliapei.ca.

With files from Mainstreet P.E.I.