Family Arbitration

You have just separated from your spouse, so what happens next? Consider Family Arbitration as fast and cost effective alternative to the traditional court process.

Aside from the emotional fallout from a separation, there are a myriad of practical questions that you now have to consider and make decisions on. Where will your kids live? How will you divide your property? Who is going to pay for what? Maybe you already have an order or agreement that deals with these things but now something needs to be changed or reviewed. When grappling with these important questions, it is understandable that disputes can arise and coming to terms with a workable solution can be tough. Negotiation and mediation are commonly used options, but not all disputes or issues can be resolved this way. There are some situations where you simply need someone to step in and make a binding decision. A court proceeding is often the way people choose to go. However, our courts are busy and often backlogged due to constraints on judicial resources. Court process and procedures can also be time consuming and costly. Some cases can take several years before they get to trial and that sought after “decision”. That is why many people choose arbitration.

What is family arbitration?

Arbitration is an alternative to the traditional court process. At the end, separating couples will have a binding decision made by a third-party arbitrator, an impartial individual who has specific expertise in family law. This person sits in place of a judge.

How does family arbitration work?

How does family arbitration work? First, both parties must agree to the arbitration and sign a contract confirming their agreement. The actual arbitration process is similar to what happens in court. Evidence is given and witnesses may testify. The difference is: it is completely private, confidential and on your schedule. Lawyers are often part of the process, as many situations involve a significant understanding of the law. Some arbitrations may deal with less complex issues, where the parties can work directly with the arbitrator without lawyers. It’s up to you. Sometimes, Family Arbitration includes a process called Med-Arb or Mediation-Arbitration. In this process, you enter a contract to mediate your dispute first, and if no agreement is reached, you go straight to arbitration on the unresolved issues. Often the mediator becomes your arbitrator, however, sometimes (as is my practice) a separate mediator and arbitrator are used so that the person making the final binding decision is not privy to settlement discussions. I have teamed up with ASR Ottawa Family Law Mediators to provide Med-Arb services and you can check out who they are here.

Significant advantages of family arbitration include:

  1. Arbitration is private and confidential, unlike court proceedings which are on the public record;
  2. You can choose your arbitrator so you know she has the specific expertise your situation calls for;
  3. You will have input in formulating the process itself to suit not only your needs but the needs posed by your situation;
  4. Arbitration can be much less formal than court and arbitration can, in most cases, result in a decision within a much shorter period of time;
  5. You get a binding decision which can be enforced as a court order.

First steps

If it sounds like arbitration might be the way for you, contact me today. I have been practicing family law since 2003. I am an experienced litigator and have extensive experience with custody and access issues, complex financial issues surrounding property and support as well as interjurisdictional issues.

In addition to my private law practice, I am a regular columnist with the Law Times, a legal publication for lawyers; I am a regular guest lecturer at the University of Ottawa in family law and a guest lecturer and coach in the University of Ottawa conflict resolution program for first year law students.

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