Your next chapter starts here!

June 15th 2020 Radio Episode Transcript

Marie: good morning Montreal…we’re still standing man let’s make the best of it on this fabulous Monday June the 15th. We do wish everybody only good things. You know that on Monday’s we’ve started a series, it’s part of our awareness series sharing the knowledge with Me Sheri Spunt. This segment is family law. Always a pleasure to kick off the week knowing our rights and how to navigate the courtroom scene and all these problems with family law so let’s not waste any more time, lets welcome our expert and professional today that kicks off the week now, and its family law with Maitre Sheri Spunt. Good day, Maitre

Sheri: good morning

Marie: the family, everybody’s good?

Sheri: everybody is good thank you

Marie: any surprises from the scene of the courthouse? Anything changed? Anything you want to share?

Sheri: so its opened, people are being very conservative in what they’re physically going to court for, they’ve put measures in place, there’s plexi glass in the courtrooms, they’re limiting, usually family law is huis clos which means its closed off to anybody who’s not a family lawyer, but right now if it’s not your case you cannot be in the room so they’re really limiting how many people are in one room at a time and really managing that situation. So they’re making it that if you do have to go to court its safe and it’s just amazing at what rapid speed they have adjusted themselves to be able to accommodate the present situation. Its moving its moving

Marie: can I ask where the plexi glass has been set up in the courtroom, how did they set up the dividers

Sheri: in between, there’s two desks on each side of the judge and they’re putting them in between, around the witness stand, and I guess wherever else they can, maybe even in front of the judge I’m not sure but they really have taken the measures to make sure that whoever is in the courtroom at that time is safe.

Marie: it’s a bit like what we saw with the classrooms, if you remember the first images we saw were actually in early may in South Korea where the desk is boxed off with the plexi glass

Sheri: ya forsure, some colleagues of mine or friends have said they don’t know how their kids will respond with them being back in daycare or camp with the visors but the kids are going to get so used to it so quickly it just becomes the new normal and kids are so resilient and adaptable so if it means they can go back to school and see their friends in any capacity, I don’t think they’re going to care what people are wearing

Marie: I agree, what about masks, are you allowed in court with a protective mask?

Sheri: ya everyone is wearing masks in general but I think that if you’re 6 feet away, you could be without your mask but I think everyone is being really precautious in terms of the mask wearing

Marie: alright Maitre I know that we have an agenda and I added something on the agenda that came my way, I don’t know how you would like to start, do you want to start with your points, number 1

Sheri: you’re the boss, whatever you feel

Marie: oh boy anything but the boss you just gave my shareholders a heart attack. Okay so let’s start then with the addition I had. So, with everything like the barriers coming down, were starting to circulate a little more, some people have discovered they were working very hard to maintain that stiff upper lip. Some men have been totally, I don’t want to say broken, but have felt effects they didn’t expect. And some of them are actually very worried about having to go back to the office area, back with colleagues whatever, being that powerful executive, they’re afraid to talk about it because everybody always looked at these men and also women but mostly men, people would look at them and say oh these are supermen, and long story short, they went for help. And they realized that they’re being treated in one case the gentleman is being treated by a psychologist, a man who earned so much money just can’t go back, doesn’t even want to deal with it. If that happens and you can’t pay your child support or alimony anymore, so if we have that situation, how does each side deal with it? What is the recourse and what is the procedure?

Sheri: okay so obviously monsieur, his camp is going to say he is no longer able to work, he has been diagnosed with x y or z, let’s say he has insurance or a disability policy or whatever that may be, he may be covered and that wouldn’t necessarily impact the child support payments. But let’s say there’s no insurance and he really is not receiving disability and so on for that, then they’re going to try and say, he doesn’t have the same capacity to pay, so there needs to either be a reduction of child support or spousal support, a suspension or a cancellation, a temporary stop. That’s what they’re going to say. The other side is going to say that this was self-inflicted, this was imposed, they’re going to want to see medical records and expertise and diagnosis. Best case scenario, the other side says they acknowledge it and they deal with it, that’s best-case scenario. If they don’t, the other camp are going to say to him we don’t believe it, we want to see it, we are going to bring your expert into court, find out if this is really true, how long is this going to last, and so on and really try and see whether or not its genuine and let’s say it is, they’re also going to try and estimate how long it’s going to take, how long it’s going to take this person to get back on their feet again to be able to resume maybe the same job or something similar. I’ve seen other cases where you have a good job, I’ve seen people go off of work for mental health let’s say for another disability or some kind of medical issue and then they’re not able to go back to the same high profile job or the same income bracket and they do have to take a pay cut. So, I’ve also seen the other camp saying well that’s not fair, they’re doing this just to get out of their child support and spousal support obligations which is just terrible that someone would go to such far lengths in order to reduce their payments. But there’s another component. I’ve seen those cases too where let’s say you lose your job but you’re still a wealthy person, you still have access or investments or buildings and you still derive income from elsewhere, an inheritance or something some assets that we maybe don’t always take into account when we’re calculating child support and spousal support, but in situations such as that, when there’s a modification or change of circumstance, a judge may decide that in view of the fact that there’s still wealth that exists, the child and the spouse shouldn’t be penalized in consequence and that person still does have the capacity to pay a spousal or child support. Maybe not the same amount, maybe a lesser amount. So, it’s really a 360 analysis that has to be done of the situation in order to determine what the outcome of that is going to be. And again, it really then becomes case by case

Marie: okay but there are procedures that each side can follow can come to another agreement

Sheri: of course, ya, I’ve seen in certain cases, if mental health is a real thing and a real problem, often sometimes the other spouse will know that that person did suffer to a certain degree and maybe is now getting help for the first time in their life and career. And if you think of all of us  I was out running this morning and its very funny because I was thinking about this, how maybe people’s lives and careers even from working from home, have kind of been put on pause, our normal routine our normal structure and I was wondering how many people are going to have challenges returning back to the hustle and bustle normal routine that we usually have. It’s going to be so extreme for so many people because we’ve all kind of been, our pause button has kind of been pushed. So I think there is going to have to be a serious adjustment in the work place, that’s another issue but I think that a lot of the time there is this understanding and it’s not a permanent situation, for example it could be someone is taken a leave from work and it could be temporary, but the couples and the parents who are able to coexist after divorce or separation and be reasonable and realize you married that human once upon a time, you chose that person like cut them some slack, work with them and the more open people are with one another rand the more willing they are to settle and negotiate, the easier life will be for everybody especially the kids. So, you know the gut reaction might be, oh they’re doing this to spite me, but you know maybe you know this is another chapter and life isn’t perfect and there’s road bumps along the way. Obviously, the starting point is to always see if there can be an agreement. I’ve done cases for example where let’s say one party did lose or reduce their income for a certain period of time, they made an agreement that once that person was back on their feet, and able to work and have the earning capacity again they would then compensate for that period of the shortfall, after, once they’re back up, once they’re back on their feet. So, it’s a give and take on both sides.

Marie: big time. There we go with that balancing thing because I gotta tell you some people are frightened of the uncertainty of what the world will look like when they walk back into it. Remember, if you were in quarantine, you are not in that world anymore. So that habit you developed which you didn’t even have to think of where you moved without thinking and did everything, these men, especially these men, a woman you know emotions and dealing with uncertainties and that, being women, I think we’ve learned to deal with it sooner

Sheri: you mean we have 150 tabs open at the same time, is that what you’re trying to say? Covid, pre Covid, post Covid, yes

Marie: (laughs) but a man, that has to say wait a minute, I don’t know if I want to walk into that work place again, I don’t know how my friends are going to react, I’m feeling anxiety, I’m suffering depression, is that PTSD. So, men they are more hesitant than women to reach out and it might be embarrassing for the man for his children to learn that dad can’t go back to work now that the office opened again. What’s wrong with dad. Dad has anxiety? You know how ugly it can get, especially if the mom lets it go.

Sheri: ya, I think that obviously I’ve never walked a day in a man’s shoes, but I think that and again I think that this is a bigger issue and maybe it’s a conversation that needs to start now, is I think big structures, big companies big buildings, you know I have other friends that work in law offices, you know downtown, downtown is like ghost town, how many of those people are going to want to go back to work, in what capacity, back to that law firm culture life or business district life. I know that some of my colleagues, their offices are closed until December physically because all these work spaces have moved towards open concept. Everyone thought this was a great idea a few years back, renovated their offices and it’s all open concept which is especially what we can’t have for the times that were living in. but that being said, I think it’s an interesting conversation and dialogue that should start happening with human resources in how are we going to reintegrate men, women back into the work place to be able to have the same efficiency that they had before, to be able to merge back into it and have as seamless a transition as possible. I think that’s a conversation I haven’t heard yet that needs to happen in order to have that, and bring in counselor’s psychologists or social workers to work with some of the team because there’s going to be a huge mental shift. As big a shift as were going to have to take now, it’s one thing to have to go from the crazy to this then go from this back to that.  Some people are sitting at their desks with a shirt, tie and basketball shorts you know.

Marie: (laughs) it’s the old wear your blazer we don’t see your fuzzy slippers right

Sheri: exactly. I get dressed from the head to toe down, if I have to get up in the meeting somebody could see my pyjama pants, I don’t think it would be so great.

Marie: alright all this to tell you that we are going to hook, Mike FM has interviewed and has had Carole Lieberman, she’s a Beverly hills psychologist. Doctor Lieberman has been on MG live before and actually they dropped me a line last week to say maybe it’s time we let her read us the riot act again and I mean that in the best of ways, to give us maybe some of the tools and encourage some of the men, you know what you have to deal with it, there are services, it’s okay and if it does affect your divorce and any conditions you cannot meet anymore, before that date comes up, is it better for them to call their lawyer and have their lawyer inform the other party?

Sheri:  ya I mean again it depends on the nature of the relationship but I always think open communication is the best thing. Some people get offended if they learn from their lawyer first before they learn from the ex-spouse so that really depends. And I always say to my clients whether it’s the beginning of the proceedings, middle or end, I say you know them best so I need you to help tell me how you think they’re going to respond this way or that way, then well make our decision. So, I think they have to go with their gut with what makes most sense but always being on top of it is better. Waiting for it to be too late and then it’s more difficult to make adjustments, I think open communication is always the best policy. Maybe it didn’t work during the marriage but let’s try it now for the divorce phase

Marie: I was just going to say it’s very scary for couples who have drifted apart, to sit down, look at each other and have a discussion. Its unbelievable I remember the few cases I was involved with friends of mine, and it was mind boggling. I used to tell one of my girlfriends, sweetheart I remember when you guys met, when you moved in together, this was your god and your life what happened to make you so hateful, there was hate, and I told you the hate is going to hurt you. It’s going to make you sick, think of yourself

Sheri: that’s the thing it’s so unhealthy and its perpetual. One of the things that came up this week already, there’s two different things. There’s the component of the kids and the kids are just I can’t express enough how important the kids are in this and how parents have to put aside the pain the suffering and the battle for their kids, shelter them from it that’s the most important component. Then you fall into the other component which is the settlement, the negotiation, the property, the family patrimony, the matrimonial regime, how the breakdown is going to go. And one of the things we always tell our client sis, the healing doesn’t happen overnight, it really doesn’t, it takes a lot of time, it could sometimes take years, therapy or no therapy, whatever it is, it takes a long time to heal but we have to be able to compartmentalize that, put it in one place, save it for when we need to work on it, and then try and deal with the other components of the divorce separately because otherwise it will never end it will take much longer than it has to or should and you need to have the ability to separate the two things. I mean of course there’s anger and emotion and feelings but try and find a way that we can wrap up the chapter to start the new chapter. The healing happens in the new chapter too. Again, like I said, you don’t get divorced and all the pain is gone. Either you spent two years together or 40 years together so it takes time but I find people who are able to, and we try and help our clients with this, able to divide it into different pieces and then deal with it one at a time, that usually helps with getting to the finish line faster

Marie: okay I gotta tell you and I’m sure every expert has said that, as a parent, you have a priority and maybe we don’t verbalize it, maybe before weddings if you’re planning to have kids you should really go over this, that in a worst case scenario, that day that you’re going to talk about it as you’re preparing for your wedding and you can never imagine not loving this man, or not wanting to spend the rest of your life with this woman, but just in case, so maybe we should start having the conversation that because we want kids, no matter what happens amongst us, will it be our priority to protect our children should any ugliness creep up that we could not control or see coming, that has implemented itself in our relationship as husband and wife, we will never ever let that shadow darkest the lives of our children. If we can agree to that priority, I’m on board. And what is that priority entail? Keeping away any hate or anger from the children. I had a friend say Marie, lousy husband. Great dad though.

Sheri: I mean you know some of the times when I have couples who are getting divorced you know they tell me that everything was fine until they had kids and thy became professional parents. So that happens sometimes. But what’s important is you know, you can acknowledge the fact that you don’t love each other anymore and that you know you’re in this together to parent and to raise children but there’s no relationship remaining between the two of you and that is sad and unfortunate forsure. If the couple can continue to always look out for the best interest of their child, that’s the most critical thing. Some people say they would never bring their kids in and use them as pawns, and we see it all the time. And we see parents alienating their children from the other parent. When I was practising in Toronto, one of the lawyers I worked with, he did tons of files just on parental alienation. we would always get those files delegated to us and it’s just unbelievable what people put their kids though. And I don’t even know if people realize that they’re doing it when they’re actually doing it. And as far as youth protection is concerned for the Cour de Quebec who has the jurisdiction for children, its psychological ill treatment, the child is being subject to parental alienation where a parent has manipulated the child to hate the other parent or to bring out whatever love the=y have for that parent, make them feel guilty for loving that parent or spending time with that parent or having any enjoyment factor at all. So, we see it and in the most extreme cases. In situations like that its very challenging and then it usually requires a psychosocial expertise where we bring in a psychologist who evaluates the family system and what’s happening

Marie: there was a terminology for this, was it parental alienation

Sheri: ya, and it’s a really challenging situation and I’ve seen kids who haven’t been able to come out of it and there’s a program that we had actually sent clients to in California called Bridges and it’s a program for children who had been alienated from one of their parents and they go there and the child spends time with the alienated parent and its almost a deprogramming program where they go, it’s an intensive therapy to get by, to get over and have treatment based on all the damage that’s been done

Marie: well that particular parent brainwashed these kids

Sheri: yes, terrible it’s the saddest thing you’ve ever seen. It’s terrible and it’s very hard because people now throw the term around a lot. So, it’s really a burden that we have to prove to the judge that this has happened, is happening and there needs to be some serious recommendations to fix it

Marie: you know Maitre, a had a case young woman, living in her world of course and you see things your way and sometimes your pain and anguish doesn’t let you see things clearly and thats when I first heard the term parental alienation is when she called and addressed her worries about that . Anyway, long story short, we found out a little while later through her because she called to tell me that social workers and the police had gone to the house to take the children. And they were able to prove parental alienation actually not only from her but also from the grandparents

Sheri: it happens, its ruined families, I’ve seen families who have been able to come out of it with very intensive therapy but its really a terrible thing and its crazy that you know parents could do that to their children and you know we’ve seen it happen and it’s not even necessarily an intentional thing. But it just comes from I think so much anger, and it causes so much damage to the family

Marie: well said because it’s the hate and those emotions for revenge that I would thing overrides what’s best for your children

Sheri: and then the kids suffer and the kids are the ones who are the casualty in it. So the first thing we do when we meet with a client is we make sure that they understand their child’s position in all of this

Marie: yes because you know no matter what dad did to you and that’s what I respected about my friend, she hated this guy at the end I’m telling you she used to say Marie if I ran into him in a dark alley an dim in a car and he’s walking, I can’t say, and she would stop there, but he loves the children, he’s  amazing with the children, the children adore him, and she understood that. She did it for her children and man that made her the greatest mom I ever met.

Sheri: you just have to swallow it for your kids. It’s a selfless thing you have to do. Let your kids feel you can be in the same room physically. Let your kids feel that you don’t completely hate each other because that makes them uncomfortable and why should they be burdened with it because your relationship didn’t work out. It’s not their fault

Marie: well actually when she would turn around and say but you know he’s a this and a that, how could he do what he did to me, and we used to say to her ya but you got him back you divorced him. That’s what you wanted because to you that would even things out. But no, it’s not enough for them when they were that hurt.

Sheri: ya exactly

Marie: it’s a very bizarre thing

Marie: alright, I had a question. Somebody who is not happy but wants to sit down with their wife and talk about it and try and work it out. They have a lot of kids. They thought this dream of having many many children, this big family, but they’re quasi friendly and are even talking about developing two different households and agreeing to this on their own. The kids go here with mom the others go here with dad. Do you need court approval to make those kinds of major decisions?

Sheri: so there’s a new legislation, the amended Divorce Act, it’s supposed to come into effect in July of this year. However now due to Covid, they’ve actually decided to hold off the transition of the new entrée en vigueur of the new Loi sur le Divorce. So, what does that mean? So what’s supposed to happen with the new legislation is that they were creating a distinction between the parent who has custody, the custodial parent, and the non-custodial parent saying that if the custodial parent, so the one who has the child the majority of the time, wants to move or work or whatever it may be, they should have the right to do so by following a few simpler steps. But that has not come into effect yet. So how do things stand as of now as of today? If there are parents in a shared custody and one wants to move, they need the authorization of the other parent, in a consent, failing which they need an order from the court. So we’ve done those trials. I’ve had clients who wanted to relocate to the States, for example, for work, for a new partner, was starting to recreate a life there. However, the other parent still lived in Montreal, Quebec. So in that file, we were talking just before the break about a psychosocial expertise, that’s something that we do when there’s cases of parental alienation but we also use that tool when we’re trying to determine custody, even if the parents are living in the same city or province, what would be the best interest of the child, so we use that tool then, and we also use it in cases of relocation for an expert, for a psychologist to tell the court and the parents what they deem is in the child’s best interest. Do they think it’s in the child’s best interest to move, does this new life, this new environment offer something special to the child in their best interest, or does the psychologist think that it is not in the child’s best interest, for example, the child is in grade 5, about to graduate, has their friends, has their network, or another child might have special needs, has a structure, has a group, whatever that might be. Again, each case has to be evaluated based on the child and their particular needs and what’s in that child’s best interest might not be in another’s best interest and might not even be in their brother and sisters best interest and in that case the expert has to rally evaluate the system based on what they think will work for the family as a unit. So that being said, they would go through this process which is quite lengthy, the psychosocial expertise for the relocation, and then that report ideally it’s a joint report which means both parents agreed to go ahead with the report or if it was ordered by the court, also I’ve seen reports come in, both parents don’t like what it says so then they need to get a counter expertise and they bring another expert in to see what they think is in the child’s best interest. And both experts come to court, they both testify and then the judge has the deciding power to determine which expert they think is more credible, which do they think makes more sense for that family. I’ve had clients who had been disappointed with the results of a report but however, in our court system, the report is not everything. It’s one of the factors to determine. So when I had one of these relocation cases in the states, we had an expert in Montreal who was a psychologist who had been working for years, give a psychosocial expertise but I thought there were flaws in it, things in it that didn’t ring true to this family, and the judge had the discretion to put aside the report and determine that they didn’t agree with the expert’s recommendation despite the whole process and my client was able to relocate to the states with her child despite the expert recommending that the child stay here. So it’s a tool like I said, and I always warn my clients, it’s a tool to help the courts but the courts are not bound by i.t. the judge has a decision to weigh what weight they’re going to give to that report over all the other evidence and witnesses who are in court.

Marie: well Maitre Spunt, kudos to you I’m ready to do a cheer here. Not only were you not intimidated, you actually fought and move on for your client and won

Sheri: ya, and it’s not easy, it’s not an easy process to go through. There’s lots of steps, you have to be really meticulous in doing it. And I even tell my clients, sometimes my clients even say but I have my expertise in my favor, I say it’s not just that it’s the whole picture. When the judge is making such a critical decision for the children, they have to make sure that it really is in their best interest and that they have factored in everything, all the variables, because it’s a huge life change. Now, in the cases where its ordered and relocation is ordered, the judge then prepares or the parties amongst themselves, a summer schedule, a vacation schedule that really compensates the other parent for the lost time. So, some clients say to me well how will I make up that time. If you take all the school breaks, not every single one but the majority of them, the summer breaks (7 weeks) and you add that all up, it does add up to a significant amount of time. So that’s what we try and do is then save that time for the other parent, for them to have meaningful time together despite the fact that they had to relocate, to make sure the child still maintains maximum contact and maximum access with the other parent.

Marie: alright I have a great question now, what if one of the parents is really really worried that the spouse has some serious mental issues? If the judges and the courts always act with the child’s best interest, an evaluation of a mothers mental capacity, so this is a question from a guy, but it could be a question of a dad’s mental capacity, if the mother is suffering psychological effects through this whole process when she received divorce proceedings and the father is really worried now, she could even endanger the children, how do you handle that? I believe that everybody is going to agree and say, yah he’s a nutcase, ya she’s crazy, but were talking in real time now.

Sheri: so, I mean that is something that’s done, there’s parental capacity assessments that are done, there’s also a portion of a psychosocial expertise but there is the parental capacity assessment. We’ve worked with parents that have had mental health problems, issues, that they were navigating and dealing with , medicated or not medicated, going through therapy, and again it’s a very delicate thing and it needs to be handled properly by the lawyers, by the parent by the other parent to be an understanding parent and by the court as well. This is a reality of the world and the society that we live in and it’s not because you might suffer from mental health issues that you can’t be a good parent but there might be a certain schedule that works better or there might be other things that need to be done to modify when the custody is going to take place or what the modalities are so let’s say its due to the recent break up or divorce is a trigger for example, we would sometime shave that the exchanges of the child take place only at daycare so that there’s no direct transfers between the parents. If that’s a trigger for example, we would avoid it. We would try and again mitigate the exposure to the other parent and make it as seamless as possible for the kids who are going back and forth

Marie: when cultural differences get in the way, when you were in love it didn’t matter, you were actually enjoying them and sharing them and learning also, now that you hate each other unfortunately and the darts are flying out of your eyes, when cultural differences come up, how do the courts deal with that?

Sheri: its hard because I’ve had cases for example where the parties are from two different backgrounds, religions, cultures and they agreed that when the child was born, they were going to do a circumcision or when the child was a certain age they were going to do a communion, a baptism and then you get to the couple is now separated and one of them is like no I don’t want to do a baptism anymore, nope I don’t agree to do that anymore. And it’s very challenging. And sometimes you have the negotiation piece in the whole divorce, you know if we do all this will you agree. It’s very very hard because both parents have parental authority to make decisions for their child. But it takes two. They are both 50-50, they both have to agree to it and its very very challenging. And when I have clients who are having trouble and who don’t agree, I suggest that they go to coparenting. Go to a coparenting counselor, help them walk you through it. It’s cheaper than going to your lawyer and going back and forth letter t letter to letter. Go sit in a session for an hour. Bring your grievances. Bring a list with you. Go through it, work through it one by one so they can really make decisions together

Marie: okay how do you set that up?

Sheri: so, there’s a lot of psychologists, there’s even social workers, who do coparenting sessions. The courthouse also offers every couple who is getting a divorce has to go through this coparenting course at the courthouse. You don’t have to go with your spouse its really just to go sit, like a student, and take in the information. It’s about a 3-hour session. Unfortunately, right now that’s on hold due to Covid, I’m not sure why they haven’t at this point set up a zoom link for parents to be able to continue doing it because you can’t get divorced without it. And so there’s psychologists and social workers in the city who do that type of work, who work with parents, again to try and find solutions to these huge huge mountains that might be little issues but it comes down to ego and who wants to win and who wants to have the last word. That’s not all the cases of course. The cases where everyone gets along, I don’t get to see those unfortunately. So, it’s a give and take and compromise is a part of marriage that maybe it didn’t work out but then when you get divorced, you still have to find compromise and find a way. So maybe if it didn’t work for you during your marriage, you have to find a way to make it work for your divorce and for your kids’ sake

Marie: you know one of the things that I’ve addressed here, I did a series a long time ago with Dr. Novack and she was a sexologist and we did a series addressing pedophilia, how to protect the children more than anything, and something we learned from her was pedophiles in most situations are very intelligent human beings. They’re planning knows no bounds to get what they want and be very careful because they use that intelligence to make headway into organizations where there are young children, be it schools, be it the catholic church that whole atrocity there that we learned of, be it scouts whatever, daycares, I mean I still remember the story I uncovered about the woman’s husband who was using the little kids in her daycare . we’ve covered quite a lot of that and I know that sometimes parents want to use that word to start a problem for the husband.

Sheri: or vice versa, it happens both ways

Marie: get out

Sheri: of course

Marie: that the mother does it?

Sheri: yes, child abuse, sexual abuse, all of it

Marie: wow. What recourse do you have when somebody puts that out?

Sheri: it’s very hard, I’ve been in those files, they usually end up at youth court, that’s Cour de Quebec we were talking about it earlier. So that’s when someone sends a signalement in French, and flags in English the DYP, the director of youth protection, someone ends up calling. When that’s done it’s supposed to be confidential who’s calling so nobody knows who made the call, the social worker comes into the file, they go into the house, they do a site inspection, the meet with dad alone, mom alone, meet with the kid alone, and then start their process to see if the signalement should be retenu, whether the file is going to be kept by the director of youth protection and obviously these are very serious allegations so they don’t take it lightly and I’ve seen it really destroy some families because false accusations of child abuse, false accusations of sexual abuse and you know I’ve been with clients who are on the receiving end of the accusations and I had one client who I knew from the moment I had first met him that there was no way, this man loves his child so much, there was no way but we had to go through the process. We had to be patient, I told him be patient, we will get through this. And we did. It took a year to get shared custody back in place, in the meantime there was supervised visits, in a center at Amcal or any of the other centers that offer it and you go to the court hearings and one is saying this and testifying that all these atrocities happen, the child is testifying and has been brainwashed by the other parent, that these events happened and then once the judge saw that there were all these holes in the story and that this picture that was painted by one of the parents was not really what happened, it took a year

Marie: ya there’s some evil women out there, I remember-

Sheri: and men, it goes both ways

Marie: okay, so the question now is, and there’s men that are afraid that this might occur. Moms new boyfriend, one of the hunting grounds that pedophiles use, we learned that from that series, is they find single moms, single moms obviously usually work, they need help, these are wonderful men who accept their children, they’ll even babysit for them so mom can go to work, they’ll even clean the house, absolutely wonderful men, where was this man all my life, it ended up being a pedophile. This did not happen only once. Unfortunately, single moms with toddlers are a hunting ground for them. They win the mom over and in most cases, it was, oh ill stay with her while you go shopping, anyway. Long story short, there were ugly ugly cases we learned through this doctor and I just covered another one last week where he was sentenced, he had been raping this stepdaughter of his, the mom fell in love with him, brought him into the house of course, she had just divorced, he was wonderful and he was raping her from the age of 6 to 11 and a half, then he left the mom and the little girl told a friend at school. The friend at school thank god told her parents, one thing led to another, her mother now, the abused child said nope she never saw any signs of that. If a father is afraid, and many dads are listening now, if a dad is afraid that mom’s new boyfriend may be, or he wants to make sure, or the kid said something to him that weekend and he’s scared, how can they address it Maitre, can they call you

Sheri: ya I mean it’s something that we deal with of course but there’s a fine line between being able to control who your ex partner’s new spouse is and a genuine fear or concern. If there’s a fear or concern that that child is in danger, then absolutely that’s something that needs to be addressed by the court and there needs to be orders made and consequences if the child’s life could be in danger and that this person that they’re with cold be a bug problem. So there has to be something subjective, a subjective fear, and some reason that you’re fearful that the children might not be safe when they’re with him and then for example, let’s say there were access rights in place and a custodial arrangement, the arrangement would be that the custody can take place when that person is not there, so its contingent on that person not being present, to have that person excluded from when the children are with that parent

Marie: let’s say the kids come back from dad, dad now has a new partner, their new stepmother. The kids come back and you hear something, I don’t know, my new stepmom was upset because I dropped a glass and she made me pick up all the glass and I got cut that’s why I’m wearing a band aid. Now the mom freaks out. Was the daughter disinfected? What do you mean she made you pick up the glass, you’re only 6 years old. Blah blah blah. Can they call you?

Sheri: ya listen of course, we don’t have solutions for everything but when there’s conflict and there’s something that needs to be addressed head on, certainly tis something we can discuss. And sometimes when our clients or potential clients call us, there’s another solution or there’s another avenue or route that we can direct them to in order to be able to tackle a problem head on.

Marie: ok first of all I have to tell you, I admire you beyond belief. I don’t know how heavy, I don’t know if I could do this, especially when you do see injustices at times to stay calm and use the law and defend your clients, just absolutely hats off to young young lady I’m telling you

Sheri: thank you so much

Marie: your phone number please mam

Sheri: 438-383-5458

Marie: and can you tell them also where they can go and order those nice guides that you have put together

Sheri: so, on our website we have prepared, we have a very large database of different blog articles and so on of parenting in general, we did a recent piece on anti-racism on how to start the conversation with your kids, that’s all on our blog and that’s at