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Face to face: Deirdre Severide

Ladner lawyer Deirdre Severide specializes in collaborative divorces, a less-adversarial approach to ending a marriage. - Rob Newell
Ladner lawyer Deirdre Severide specializes in collaborative divorces, a less-adversarial approach to ending a marriage.
— image credit: Rob Newell

When Deirdre Severide speaks, her soothing voice, relaxed body language, and friendly smile puts one quickly at ease.

Which is probably why the Ladner resident is suited to her profession as the only lawyer in South Delta to be registered in collaborative divorce and mediation.

“The biggest difference in this process is we don’t go to court,” says Severide, although that’s just the tip of the iceberg.

As the name implies, Severide facilitates the amicable separation of married couples, without the adversarial process of litigation.

“It was financially and emotionally ruinous to people,” she says of the “old way,” which she practised for 25 years before switching to this method five years ago.

The results of normal divorce often fall below the expectations of clients, while intangibles fall by the wayside, such as preserving relationships, control over process and outcome, and the effect on children.

“I always wanted to do law to help people with their problems,” says Severide, adding that after 25 years she became frustrated with the process.

That frustration was exemplified in the faces of those she dealt with as well. She would often see the ex-spouses of clients in the supermarket and they would ignore or give her hostile looks. Today, those ex-spouses will walk up to her, smile, and have a friendly conversation.

“It’s the opposite in the collaborative process,” she says, adding this finally recognizes the emotional component to divorce.

It used to be that judges would decide the emotional needs of people, such as child visitation rights. Now there are collaborative-trained lawyers to help resolve these issues.

“I like to think of it as an enlightened process to divorce and separation.”

During the process, Severide does many face-to-face meetings with both sides. In exchange, they agree not go to court, provide an honest exchange of financial information, and come to a resolution that meets everyone’s interests. She says this is an alternate dispute resolution process that is interests-based rather than statutory rights-based. Or simply put, an alternative to the “win-lose situation.” Instead of “gladiators” the lawyers act as coaches and advocates, not just for the client but the integrity of the process.

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