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Lawyer: Economy affecting number of divorces sought

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Ten-year anniversary: MacLellan & Associates aims to change the way divorces are settled in Bermuda. Pictured are paralegal Erika Thomas, left, with owner Jackie MacLellan.

Over the past decade, family lawyer Jackie MacLellan has seen her fair share of divorces — personally having litigated more than 1,000 cases in Bermuda.From how the economy affects cases to the actual process of separation, Ms MacLellan has firsthand knowledge of how the Island’s divorce landscape has changed.In 2008, she says, it was common to see approximately 20 to 25 names on the undefended divorce listing (public listing of divorces headed to court), now there are approximately ten to 12.“The economy is affecting the number of persons seeking a divorce,” said Ms MacLellan, who handles up to 80 ongoing cases at any one time. “Banks are tightening up on loans, homes are not selling and people simply cannot afford to live in separate households while engaged in an expensive divorce.”But as her law firm, MacLellan & Associates, celebrates its tenth anniversary, she is hoping to change the way divorce is handled here.She is Bermuda’s pioneer in collaborative divorce, a process in which both parties and their fully trained lawyers negotiate a peaceful, fair settlement in a reasonably short period of time without heading to court.“Historically getting a divorce is perhaps one of the most stressful and emotional experiences a person can have. Couples that once declared undying love now stand opposite one another prepared to fight to the death.But it doesn’t have to be so,” she said. “A collaborative divorce with both parties willing to work toward settlement can take between two to five sessions and cost a mere fraction of the standard divorce.”Today, Ms MacLellan trains other lawyers about collaborative divorce and is the president of the Collaborative Law Alliance of Bermuda, which is associated with the International Academy of Collaborative Professionals (IACP).She says that Bermuda is slowly catching on to the notion.The process now accounts for about 15 percent of her overall case load with the majority still being litigated court cases, though she hopes that will change.“People are starting to come to me asking for a collaborative divorce,” said Ms MacLellan, who was schooled at Harrington Sound Primary School and Warwick Academy. “People are starting to see the benefits.”In her ten years Ms MacLellan has also branched into practicing will and estate law, which is a natural byproduct of divorcing couples who have to divide up the family purse.Her work has gained recognition as she was the keynote speaker at Canada’s Association of Administrative Professionals 2012 annual conference and spoke on the topic of wills and estates.Ms MacLellan attended Queens University and University of Western Ontario in Canada. She was admitted to the Ontario Bar in 1991 and to the Bermuda Bar in 1996.

Busy: Lawyer Jackie MacLellan has handled more than 1,000 divorce cases during her ten years in practice.
Marking its ten-year anniversary: MacLellan & Associates, Barristers & Attorneys, Notary Public.
Half-day education course on divorce

Divorcing couples are asked to make some of the most important decisions they may ever face yet have to do so while experiencing strong emotions.

To help lawyers and other professionals involved in the litigation handle such cases and to figure out how stress affects the actions of divorcing couples, lawyer Jackie MacLellan is hosting a continuing education course today from 9am to 12:30pm . Family lawyers, mediators, marital therapists and social workers are all invited to attend.

Entitled “The fight and flight response — intervention and negotiation strategies with separating spouses”, the half-day course will be presented by Nathalie Boutet, collaborative and mediation lawyer, Boutet Family Law, Toronto, Ontario, Canada.

The course is accredited by the Law Society of Upper Canada, Canadian Counselling & Psychotherapy Association, Bermuda Bar Association and Bermuda Psychologists Registration Council. Cost is $150.

For more information contact 441-295-6467 or Jackie@maclellan.bm