Not all marriages or relationships last. In fact, according to Statistics Canada, nearly half of all marriages end in divorce. And when that happens, the legal issues — such as the division of property, support payments and custody arrangements — can quickly multiply into chaos.
That’s why family lawyers like Kathryn Hendrikx, the owner of Hendrikx Family Law, are in such high demand. The bulk of her job is to help clients, who have split up from their partner, negotiate a reasonable, livable resolutions to the contentious problems that arise after a breakup. Here, she gives us an inside look at her job.
Let’s say someone has decided to get a divorce. What’s the first thing a lawyer would do to help?
Hendrikx starts by setting up an initial meeting to learn as much as possible about the potential client’s situation and to address the main concerns.
“Information gathering is key,” she says. “You have to ask as many questions — as many times — as it takes. That way, I’ll have all the information I need to start a process that will lead to a resolution.”
The goal, in every case, is to find a resolution outside of litigation. So Hendrikx always discusses alternative forms of dispute resolution, including mediation and arbitration.
What sort of problems do you help your clients solve?
Hendrikx helps her clients work through a wide range of problems. In some cases, neither party can agree on what amount of spousal support would be fair. In others, custody is the most contentious issue.
Whether the question is when to sell the house, how to value a business or who keeps the pets, all of these matters are important to Hendrikx. “These issues can have a profound and long-lasting impact on an entire family, not just my client.”
What’s a typical day like?
Hendrikx spends most of her days meeting with clients and drafting legal documents. She also represents her clients in court, at mediations and at arbitrations.
What sort of person would do well in family law?
“You need to have a high IQ and a high EQ to work in family law,” she says. “You also need to be interested in people, and engage well with them. I’m not spending my days reviewing spreadsheets. I’m talking to people — company executives, stay-at-home moms, entrepreneurs — about the most important thing in their life: their family, children, business and house.”
What do you love about your job?
“I love interacting with my clients and helping them solve problems,” says Hendrikx. “I care deeply for families and I’m always mindful of the human impact of what I do. My job is to take someone in a highly emotional state and offer them options to help them move forward. It’s enormously gratifying when I’m able to do that.”