LAURA TAYLOR - BIOGRAPHY
I had big dreams of becoming a lawyer at the age of 17 while in high school in Ajax, Ontario. In pursuit of what felt like a calling, I completed a Bachelor’s of Arts degree in Criminology and Sociology at the University of Toronto before being accepted into Queen’s Law School in Kingston, Ontario. I was called to the Ontario Bar in 1996 and practiced law for 5 years as a criminal defence lawyer in Hamilton, Ontario conducting countless trials in both the Provincial and Supreme courts including jury trials; as well as appearing before the Ontario Court of Appeal.
I set up my own law practice in Nanaimo, BC after being called to the BC Bar in 2001 at which time I began practicing family law in addition to criminal law. Over the years I have expanded my family law practice to include mediation, collaborative family law and family law arbitration. My practice is now restricted to just handling family law matters. Inspired by wanting to help people find better ways to separate and divorce, I completed my Master’s of Law in Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) at Osgoode Hall Law School in 2009.
After having operated my own law practice in Nanaimo for 15 years, I began working with the firm of Warsh Law Corp. to combine our legal expertise.
I have also studied and trained in the area of Restorative Justice and facilitated Victim-Offender mediations on a volunteer basis with the John Howard Society. I have also sat as a member of the Board of Directors for the John Howard Society in Nanaimo, BC.
I have taught courses in criminal law, conflict resolution and human rights at Malaspina University College which is now known as Vancouver Island University. I have also been invited to speak on the topic of family law as a guest lecturer.
I have also worked as an Arbitrator for the B.C. Provincial Government in the Residential Tenancy Branch which involved conducting hearings, mediated settlements and rendering written decisions in resolving disputes between landlords and tenants.
I am a member of the Law Society of B.C., the International Association of Collaborative Professionals, the Canadian Bar Association and the Nanaimo Bar Association.
As separation/divorce is more than just a legal issue, I support my clients by listening to their needs, hopes, fears and concerns in helping them make informed decisions that reflect their priorities and goals.
I support my clients by offering a menu of options from traditional to more collaborative approaches to resolving family law problems.
I analyze the family law dispute not only from a legal perspective but on a deeper level to understand the underlying causes to help generate solutions. It is in this way I am able to help develop a customized strategy for moving forward.
In recent years I have seen a shift with more and more people looking for ways to work out a settlement without going to court. In response to this growing demand, clients can choose from a variety of out of court options including mediation, collaborative family law and Arbitration or any combination.
With 20 years of litigation experience combined with my dispute resolution background, I am well equipped to work within any process.
OVERVIEW OF SERVICES
As a litigation lawyer, I was inspired to explore non-adversarial approaches to resolving family law disputes recognizing that litigation can escalate animosity, frustration, delays and costs due to the very nature of the process. What I discovered was that non-adversarial settlement strategies can help to preserve relationships; reduce the emotional and financial costs; and promote a more thorough exploration of options in reaching mutually satisfying agreements. The success of these out of court settlement strategies begins with a fundamental shift in seeing the dispute as a joint problem to be solved. This shift unlocks the door to innovative ways of resolving disputes respectfully even when couples are experiencing high conflict, disagreements, difficulty communicating, and wanting different outcomes.
When we change how we view disputes over parenting, child support, custody/guardianship, spousal support, and property division from legal battles to be won to joint problems to be solved, the experience of separation and divorce becomes less adversarial as out of court settlement strategies replace traditional ways of resolving the family law dispute.
By offering services as a Litigator, Mediator, Collaborative Family Lawyer and Arbitrator , I value being able to offer choices that can also be combined to design a customized process which will best support the needs, hopes and goals of the parties.
The decision as to how to move forward in resolving parenting and/or financial matters upon separation involves process choices offering different responses to choose from. Each process choice will open the door to a different experience of separation and divorce.
Mediation is an out of court process that uses a neutral third party, i.e. the mediator, to facilitate and manage the settlement discussions in a way that assists parties in reaching a mutually acceptable settlement. Mediation focuses on exploring solutions that meet the interests of both parties which is referred to as “interest based negotiation”.
The mediator listens to understand each party’s goals, hopes, concerns and fears to uncover hidden interests; ensures that each party has the information he or she requires from the other; and assists the parties in exploring mutually satisfying outcomes that meet their interests.
As a mediator, I meet with each person individually for a one hour consultation with the first half hour free. After these initial consultations, an assessment is made as to whether mediation is suited for the particular needs of the parties and the dispute.
The mediation process can also be tailored to provide more support where needed to optimize the likelihood of settlement by engaging the expertise and skills of various trained professionals such as a Divorce Coach, Financial Specialist or Child Specialist. These professionals can help to avoid and remove roadblocks to settlement thereby reducing legal fees.
Once a settlement is reached, I am able to draft a comprehensive Separation Agreement in accordance with the terms of the settlement.
Although I am a lawyer, I cannot provide any legal advice when acting as a Mediator. As such, each party will be instructed to seek independent legal advice in regards to the mediated settlement before signing the Separation Agreement.
In considering mediation, keep in mind that obtaining independent legal advice after reaching a mediated settlement can trigger the unravelling of the agreement. If this is a concern, you may want to consider Collaborative Family Law.
Mediation can also be combined with Arbitration (“Med-Arb”) giving the mediator the authority to make the final decision when an issue can’t be resolved by mutual agreement. After a hearing, the mediator, acting as Arbitrator, makes findings of fact and applies the law to those facts in rendering a final binding decision.
Collaborative Family Law is recognized under the Family Law Act as an out of court dispute resolution process. This process requires two collaboratively trained lawyers who collectively use their mediation skills in approaching the dispute as a joint problem to be solved. Negotiations take place over a series of meetings where lawyers take on different roles other than adversaries. Parties can have the benefit of ongoing legal advice while still mediating their disputes.
If the needs of the parties require additional support, the collaborative process can be customized by working with trained professionals such as Divorce Coaches, Financial Specialists and Child Specialists. I work with a team of Professionals to assist when these needs arise.
A key component of the collaborative law process involves signing a Participation Agreement whereby the parties agree not to go to court and instead follow the process guidelines designed to optimize the likelihood of settlement. If a party decides to go to court, the collaborative lawyers are prohibited from representing either party in court.
If there is an issue that cannot be resolved through mutual agreement, the parties have the option to go to court with new lawyers or to resolve the dispute by Arbitration which would provide them with a legally binding decision by an Arbitrator acting as a Judge.
By not going to court, each party can continue to engage their collaborative lawyers in the Arbitration process so as to minimize the adversarial nature of the proceedings.
Arbitration is an out of court process that offers a legally binding decision by a qualified Arbitrator acting as a Judge. The Arbitrator makes findings of facts and makes rulings based upon the straight application of the law. The rules governing the Arbitration can be mutually agreed upon so that the hearing process can be tailored to meet the needs of the parties.The Arbitration process offers parties greater efficiency and more control over the issues to be decided, the length of the proceedings, the rules governing the proceedings and the timing of the proceedings.
The decision of an Arbitrator is legally binding and has the same effect as if it had been made in court. Arbitration can be used on it’s own or combined with mediation or collaborative family law, whenever a third party decision is required.
When Arbitration is combined with Mediation, it is often referred to as Mediation-Arbitration or “Med-Arb”. When the parties mediating a dispute are unable to resolve all or part of it, the mediator switches roles to become the Arbitrator who will make the final decision after a hearing. The Arbitrator’s decisions include findings of fact and are based upon applying the law to the facts as would be required of a Judge.
When Arbitration is combined with Collaborative Family Law, any unresolved issue(s) can be decided by an Arbitrator who would provide a legally binding decision. The collaborative family law lawyers can work together in such a way as to minimize the adversarial nature of the proceedings while still being effective advocates.
While court is an option most people want to avoid, there are many who still find themselves caught up in a legal battle, sometimes by choice and sometimes only because the other party is not willing to try an out of court process.
I have over 20 years of courtroom experience to draw upon having appeared in the Provincial and Supreme Courts in both Ontario and British Columbia as well as the Ontario Court of Appeal. As a criminal defence lawyer I gained extensive courtroom experience by conducting numerous bail hearings, sentencing hearings, preliminary hearings and trials, including jury trials. I represented clients charged with all types of criminal offences including drugs, theft, break and enter, arson, sexual assault, robbery and manslaughter.
As a family law lawyer I put my criminal courtroom experience to work in representing clients in both the Provincial and Supreme Court conducting hearings and trials involving issues of custody/access, parenting time, parenting responsibility, child support, spousal support, and property division.
In combining my 20 years of litigation experience with my dispute resolution background, I encourage exhausting settlement options first before turning to the courts for decisions. With my background in dispute resolution, I am able to see the deeper dynamics driving the legal dispute so as to identify the barriers and generate possible solutions.
My Master’s of Law program at Osgoode Hall Law School covered education and training in the theory and skills of negotiation including both interest based and positional negotiation. I believe being an effective negotiator is an important part of the litigation process. I also believe that being an effective negotiator involves helping clients make informed choices by understanding their hopes, fears, concerns, and goals.
Laura’s expertise made a significant increase to my visitation with my breast-fed infant son. I went from being a dad whose ex only allowed me to visit my son in her home, with her present, and only at her convenience to having my son almost half the week including overnight. I enthusiastically recommend Laura Taylor in family legal matters. She is bright, supportive, and effective. C.R.
Laura listened to my concerns, validated the reason why I was coming to see her and offered options as to how she could help me. I felt very supported and heard. I have seen Laura come to my aid as an excellent advocate for my well being. She is quick and efficiant to respond at my collaborative meetings and always has my best interest in mind.
I would highly recommend Laura to anyone. Through one of the most toughest time in my life she has stood by me and advocated for me all the way. Helping to restore my voice and giving me more confidence than I thought possible. G.F. roblem to be solved.