Custody and Access Disputes

Putting your family disputes to rest

Nelligan O’Brien Payne’s experienced family lawyers understand that legal disputes in family law are never easy for those involved, and are often heightened by stress and emotion. Many disputes can be resolved outside of court, but sometimes legal action is needed. We can help you choose the right option to put your family law dispute to rest so that you and your family can move forward with your lives.

Litigation and Appeals

When legal action is needed to resolve your dispute, you can be confident that our experienced lawyers are at the forefront of developments in family law. We have contributed to precedents that have helped Canadian family law evolve to meet today’s values. You can be assured that our family lawyers know the judicial system well, and are highly regarded advocates with a proven reputation of excellence. Our family lawyers handle a full range of litigation matters, including appeals to higher courts.

Members of our practice group have appeared before all levels of court, including the Ontario Superior Court of Justice, the Court of Appeal for Ontario, and the Supreme Court of Canada, to deal with issues involving all areas of family law to ensure that the law is applied in a fair and equitable manner. We pursue advocacy tenaciously in the courts, taking a practical and results-oriented approach to achieve the timely and cost-effective resolution of your dispute.

Alternatives to Court

There are four types of dispute resolution methods that are commonly used in family law, which can help you resolve your family law disputes outside of court. These include lawyer to lawyer negotiation, mediation, arbitration, and collaborative family law. Our family lawyers are skilled in using all of these methods of dispute resolution in support of our clients. You should feel free to ask your family lawyer about your options and discuss which alternative will be best for you.


Negotiation is probably the most flexible method of dispute resolution available to help resolve family law issues. While Ontario’s Family Law Act provides a default of people’s rights and obligations which arise out of a separation, there is nothing stopping separating couples from reaching their own agreement. This can be done directly with your former spouse or with the assistance of lawyers. Even if you find yourself in a court proceeding, you can still negotiate a settlement and resolve everything without the need to have your dispute resolved by a judge. It is always recommended that you get legal advice before agreeing to anything to ensure that your needs are being met.


The mediation process can help resolve family disputes by having a third party Mediator assist and facilitate a negotiation between the parties involved. The goal is for the participants to reach an agreement with the Mediator’s help. The mediation process is normally confidential, and the mediator is impartial. A mediator cannot give either party legal advice or make a decision about your case. In other words, nothing in the process is binding on either person. Depending on the issue that needs to be resolved, mediators are most commonly lawyers, but can also be psychologists, social workers, or financial specialists.


Arbitration is a process used to resolve disputes by allowing a third party Arbitrator to make a final binding decision. The parties choose an Arbitrator and agree that they will follow the Arbitrator’s decision. Unlike a Judge, an Arbitrator is privately retained by both parties. The parties attend a hearing where they can call witnesses and provide documents to support their case. In many cases, arbitration may be less formal than a court proceeding and it may be much quicker as well. Some arbitrations are conducted entirely in writing. There are special rules surrounding the arbitration process, and you should always talk to a lawyer before agreeing to engage an Arbitrator.

Collaborative Family Law

In the collaborative family law approach, the parties and their lawyers attempt to problem solve together through a series of four-way meetings, with resolution of the dispute as the ultimate goal. The process is based on a contractual agreement that neither party will proceed to Court while in the collaborative process. It is interest based (as opposed to purely focused on legal rights) and solution oriented. The role of the lawyer in the collaborative family approach is to act as a legal advisor and coach to his or her client. You must engage family lawyers who are trained and certified to practice collaborative family law, such as Marta Siemiarczuk, a family law lawyer at Nelligan O’Brien Payne LLP. If an agreement cannot be reached, the parties will be required to retain new lawyers if the matter proceeds to Court. This encourages both parties to strive to resolve the issues.

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