As of March 17, 2020, the Ontario Superior Court of Justice suspended all regular operations for an indefinite period. Similarly, as of March 20, 2020 the Ontario Court of Justice suspended all regular operations until May 29, 2020. Both courts continue to hear urgent and emergency family law matters.
Without access to the courts, family law litigants can still avail of a number of different options to resolve their family law disputes. Indeed, there are numerous forms of alternative dispute resolution (ADR). With consent, parties at any stage of litigation can agree to settle their issues outside of court with ADR. These processes can be a cheaper, faster, and less acrimonious way to settle family law disputes than traditional court litigation.
Collaborative family law is an out-of-court resolution process which puts families first. With collaborative practice, parties work together, with their lawyers and other neutral professionals, such as family professionals and financial professionals, to reach a mutually agreeable resolution of their division of property, support, custody and access issues.
Collaborative family law helps minimize the emotional and financial costs of separation and their impact on children. In collaborative family law, negotiations are interest-based and held in an open and transparent manner. Creative solutions are crafted to address the specific interests and concerns of each spouse. When the issues are resolved, a separation agreement is drafted containing all the items discussed in negotiations.
Family law mediation can assist parties to resolve division of property, support, custody and access issues. A mediator is a neutral third party who does not have the authority to render a decision and cannot grant spouses a divorce. If a voluntary settlement is reached, it will only be binding if turned into a legal separation agreement.
Mediation tends to be successful when spouses are amicable, willing and able to communicate effectively with each other. Mediation gives spouses the ability to craft a settlement based on their terms, and not have one imposed on them by the courts.
Family law arbitration can also assist parties to resolve division of property, support, custody and access issues. Arbitration differs from mediation in that an arbitrator has the authority to make binding decision, called a family arbitration award, subject to agreed upon rights of appeal.
There are numerous advantages of family law arbitration. For one, it is private and confidential unlike a court case. The process tends to be much faster than going to court and you do not have to follow the procedural formalities of court. Further, arbitration tends to less expensive than court. Moreover, parties can select the arbitrator for their matter. Arbitration is also flexible as parties can schedule sessions according to their availability.
In light of the COVID-19 pandemic, many collaborative professionals, family law mediators and arbitrators are offering their services virtually through video and teleconferencing.
Please contact Gilbertson Davis LLP if you are considering ADR to resolve your family law matter. We will take time to explain the advantages and disadvantages of each form of alternative dispute resolution to you to determine which process best fits your specific needs. Our family law counsel is a certified collaborative lawyer and a member of the Collaborative Practice Toronto group. We advise and represent clients throughout the meditation, arbitration and collaborative family law.