Meet Alberta lawyer Norman Galarneau

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As a joint founder of The Family Law Firm along with his wife, Family Law lawyer Jennifer Galarneau, Norman Galarneau is redefining how law firms work with clients.  "People were not getting the legal help they need and deserve," said Norman.  "We rose up to fill that need."  Learn what that means by reading his answers to the questions you would like to ask a top Family Law lawyer.  It's must reading for anyone who is searching for a Family Law lawyer.

What makes a good Family Law Lawyer?

As a Family Law Lawyer, you need to feel compassion for the people who are going through some tough times.   At the same time, you need to be able to step back.  You can't get as emotionally involved as the client because that almost always leads to problems.  You lose perspective and start focusing on the wrong issues.   That's very common with less experienced lawyers.  A good lawyer does not get emotionally involved and instead applies his or her experience to the case at hand.  That's how you get the best possible outcome.

What is "the law"?

The law is not necessarily what you read.  There is the law in statute and case law.  The law may even appear to be on your side, but you can still lose for any number of reasons.  Maybe you had a junior lawyer who was weak in court.  Or perhaps you gave up too soon or perhaps you decided to get rid of your lawyer and go it alone.  Conversely, you might appear to be on the wrong side of the law, but with the right representation you can still win.  We have done that for our clients by finding the right angle and being relentless in terms of our advocacy for the client's position.

What is the biggest misconception about the legal system?

That people will do the right thing.  That the crown/police officer will tell everybody the story of what happened.

Why is court experience so important?

How a case is handled in court has a big impact on how it comes out.  We know how to handle a case in court because we are in court regularly and know almost everyone in the Alberta court system.    Take, for example, Emergency Protection orders, which is one of the areas we practice in.  The outcome depends in large part almost entirely on who the judge is.   We know how most judges will decide, given a particular set of facts, and that helps us become more effective advocates for our clients.

Can court tactics make a difference?   

How you approach the legal system makes a difference.  My job is to pick the approach that is most likely to produce the best result for my client.  For example, timing is important.  I might choose to hold some things back until just the right moment.  It makes a difference.  In many cases, getting the timing just right has meant that my client was able to walk away in a better position than would normally have been the case under the law.   

How do you handle he-said, she-said legal cases?

Don't assume that the judge won't believe anything.  The judge will make a decision on what is said by both parties.  Don't be frozen, whoever manoeuvres best gets the best outcome.  The way you run your case will often determine the outcome regardless of who is right.  

Why is it dangerous to try and represent yourself in Court?

Some people will get an outcome in Court and think it was good by the way the judge gives them feedback.  But they don't know the future implications of what has just happened.  Then they come to see me and I have to tell them that what just happened in Court is not good.

What can happen if you fail to appear in court?

If you fail to appear in court and you get a Court Order against you, it is the worst case scenario because the person making that application gets anything they want and trying to change things afterwards is almost impossible.

Why are Emergency Protective Orders a challenge?

Once an Emergency Protective Order is in place, it basically cripples your ability to have access to your children, they eject you from the house and basically you are assumed guilty until you are proven innocent.

Habitually, we have spouses who get Emergency Protective orders, which removed the children from the care of one of the parties, which is generally the father.  We go in and get the children taken off that order so that the father can have access. 

Sometimes an Emergency Protection Order is necessary, however, and we have experience acting for both people who need a Protection Order against their ex and those who feel it is unjust to have one in place against them. 

Do you represent children?

We often act as children's advocates, a lot of times in custody cases the children will have a voice and want to be heard on what they want.  We will act as their lawyer and we have represented children as young as 6 years old.  With children that young, we aren't necessarily regurgitating what they are saying to the judge.  We are also doing our own analysis of what we think of the case, what we think is best for the child and it may conflict with what the child is actually saying.

Are you seeing any changes in Family Law?

Yes, we are starting to see a shift to all varieties of shared parenting.  For example, stay-at-home dads now have a real shot at custody.  

Do you represent everyone?

Yes, it doesn't matter whether the client is young or old.  They can be from the city or the country.  They can be conventional in terms of sexual orientation or they can be gay, lesbian or transgender clients.  We represent everyone.

You have questions about Alberta law. We have answers.

Q: What constitutes Family Violence?
The Protection Against Family Violence Act states that Family Violence includes:

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A.M.

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