It is important for spouses to choose a process that is best for their family. There are several processes that spouses can use to resolve their separation issues, including negotiation, mediation, arbitration, and/or Court.
We help families using the processes they chose or ultimately need to get it done. The help you will need through each of the processes may be a little different. Creative problem solving is important when you are negotiating a resolution. Zealous advocacy is necessary if you have to go to Court. Our lawyers bring with them broad skills and experience to navigate your resolution – practical advice, creative problem-solving, and zealous advocacy.
The process your family uses to resolve your separation issues may depend on a few things, including:
- The level of conflict between spouses.
- The resources available to resolve the issues.
- Whether spouses both choose to deal with the issues out of Court.
- The nature and urgency of issues that need to be resolved.
- The legal positions taken by each of the parties.
Here are some details about some of the processes most often used by families to resolve their disputes.
Negotiation is an alternative to going to Court to resolve a family law dispute. It is a cooperative problem-solving process where a neutral mediator, often a lawyer, assists both parties to communicate, define the issues in dispute, and try to reach an agreement that meets the needs and interests of both parties.
Mediation is an alternative to going to Court to resolve a family law dispute. It is a cooperative problem-solving process where a neutral mediator, often a lawyer, assists both parties to communicate, define the issues in dispute, and try to reach an agreement that meets the needs and interests of both parties.
The mediator will not give you legal advice but will help you to define an agenda, identify your interests, and develop options. If you reach an agreement in mediation, you and your lawyer will draft the Agreement to make it binding. Mediation is often less expensive than Court and places part of the dispute resolution within your own control.
Usually, you and your spouse will each meet with your lawyer prior to attending mediation. You and your spouse would then meet privately with a mediator in a two to three-hour session. Mediation is a confidential process, and information and discussions which arise in mediation cannot be used should a Court action later be required.
Binding arbitration is a voluntary process outside of the Court system. The parties jointly hire an arbitrator, often an experienced family law lawyer who is specifically trained in arbitration, to hear and decide their issues. This process has many advantages, including privacy, selection of the arbitrator, being involved in determining the formality of the process, and timing. It is often much quicker to go through arbitration than a trial. Arbitration can be with or without your lawyers and can be on both narrow issues (such as whether an expense is part of child support) and a wide range of issues including complicated property divisions.
Collaborative Family Law
Collaborative Family Law is an approach of family law dispute resolution that is entirely outside of the Court system. Under the “CFL” you and your spouse each retain a CFL lawyer and the parties sign an Agreement stating that they are committed to the process and will not go to Court. If one party wishes to leave the process and go to Court, both parties must hire new lawyers. In CFL the four parties work together to try to resolve the family law dispute from the very outset. For more information about CFL, ask your lawyer.
Dispute Resolution Officer (DRO)
This is a program operated out of the Court of Queen’s Bench of Alberta, but available to all parties in a family law dispute. A Court action does not have to have been filed. A DRO is an experienced family law lawyer who meets with both parties at the same time, in a one hour confidential, quasi-mediation meeting. The role of the DRO is to canvas whether a settlement or a narrowing of the issues is possible. The DRO cannot make a Court Order other than to direct financial disclosure. The DRO cannot give specific legal advice to a party but will use mediation skills and practical experience to suggest ideas. There is no charge. Parties can attend with or without lawyers. This has been a very successful program and is MANDATORY before a child support application can proceed to Court. The contact number is 297-3875.
Judicial Dispute Resolution (JDR)
All three family law Courts in Alberta (Provincial, Queen’s Bench and Court of Appeal) offer a JDR program. A JDR is a confidential meeting with the parties and their lawyers with a Judge, to canvas settlement in a quasi-mediation setting. It is not binding, and the Judge cannot make an Order. At Provincial Court, the JDR is usually one and a half hours, and at the Court of Queen’s Bench and Court of Appeal, it can be up to a full day in length. JDRs often lead to a final resolution. Ask your lawyer for more information.
Starting a Court action is the traditional method of solving a family law dispute. A Court action is adversarial in that it places one person against the other person and leaves the decision in the hands of a Judge. The process can be time consuming and expensive. Although a Court action is appropriate in some family law situations, there are many options now available.