Family Law Services

Alternative Dispute Resolution in Family Law

Discover a more compassionate path through the complexities of Family Law. Our Vancouver family lawyers will guide you through Alternative Dispute Resolution, making the end of marriage less adversarial and more focused on consensus. 

Navigating the End of Marriage: Family Dispute Resolution Processes

The end of a marriage, or marriage-like relationship, can be the most painful experience you will ever face. Traditional, adversarial divorce often increases this pain. Court can leave lasting scars, and can damage your ability to coparent with your spouse after separation.

The good news is that going to court is not the only way to resolve conflict at the end of a marriage or marriage-like relationship. In fact, under both provincial and federal law, spouses have a duty to attempt to resolve their dispute through a family dispute resolution process (to the extent that it is appropriate to do so). Alternatives to court include four-way meetings, collaborative law, mediation, arbitration, and mediation + arbitration. When there is a lot of conflict between parents regarding the children, a parenting coordinator can act as a mediator with power to resolve disputes when necessary. Child specialists and divorce coaches can help parties navigate the many challenges around parenting that will arise. Financial experts can act as “neutrals” between the parties to address uncertainty around financial matters. Mills Family Law works with all these family dispute resolution experts to find the best path through your separation and divorce.

Four-Way Meetings: Informal Discussions

The term four-way meeting is often heard during the process of separation and refers to informal meetings between parties and their lawyers. The timing of a four-way meeting will depend on various factors, the most important of which is the parties’ readiness to candidly discuss difficult issues with a view to reaching settlement.

Collaborative Divorce: A Cooperative Approach

In collaborative divorce, separating spouses work collaboratively with their lawyers to settle all the issues that arise when a relationship ends. Other experts, including coaches, child specialists and financial experts also come alongside and work with the spouses to navigate complex and emotionally difficult issues. With Collaborative Divorce, you and your partner agree from the start that you will:

  • Not go to court, or even threaten to go to court;
  • Communicate with honesty and respect;
  • Make a sincere effort to understand each other's needs and concerns;
  • Promptly disclose all relevant information; and
  • Work together towards an agreement that's in everyone's best interests.

Collaborative family law is driven by the spouses and must therefore be fully consensual by both parties. The spouses decide which issues they will discuss with guidance and support from their collaborative family law team. All decisions are made by the spouses, instead of the decisions being made for them in court. Mills Family Law is a strong advocate for collaborative family law, and we encourage this process whenever appropriate. Schedule your first free consultation to learn more.

Family Law Mediation: Resolving Separation Issues with a Neutral Third Party

Mediation is a process in which spouses work with a neutral third party to resolve the legal issues that arise from their separation or divorce. Mediators are professionals who have been specifically trained to resolve family law matters. The mediator does not make decisions, issue orders, or find fault with either party. The mediation itself typically occurs over one or two days. A settlement in mediation occurs when the parties agree. An agreement reached in mediation is enforceable in court as it were an order. Spouses can attend mediation with or without lawyers. The existence of conflict or even family violence does not necessarily mean that mediation is not a good option, since mediation can occur with the parties attending in different rooms, or even virtually.

Compulsory Mediation: What to Do if Your Spouse Refuses Mediation

You can require your spouse to attend mediation by serving a Notice to Mediate. Perhaps surprisingly, even when one spouse is compelled to attend mediation, the chances of reaching settlement are still quite high. Unless otherwise ordered by the court, only one mediation may be initiated with a notice to mediate. The notice to mediate must be served no earlier than 90 days after the filing of the first response in the case and no later than 90 days prior to trial. The parties may appoint a mutually acceptable mediator within 14 days after service of the notice to mediate, failing which any participant may apply for the appointment of a mediator.

Family Law Arbitration: Efficient and Confidential Legal Resolutions

A family law arbitrator acts as a judge and makes legally binding decisions based on evidence. Family Law arbitration offers many potential advantages over court. Arbitration can be more efficient, less formal, and less expensive than going to trial. Arbitration is confidential. The law and procedure of an arbitration can be tailored, unless inconsistent with the Family Law Act and the Divorce Act. An arbitrator can be chosen by the parties based on their expertise, whereas trial judges are not always as experienced in family law. Another advantage is the certainly provided by arbitration: decisions are binding, final, and have limited rights of appeal.

Mediation + Arbitration: Combined Dispute Resolution Processes

Mediation + arbitration combines two dispute resolution processes into one. Spouses agree in advance that if they are unable to come to agreement on some or all issues in mediation, then they will move to arbitration to settle the remaining issues. The arbitrator can be the same person as the mediator, or someone new entirely. As with stand-alone arbitration, the procedural rules of Mediation + Arbitration are flexible and can be shaped to fit the parties’ needs.

Parenting Coordination: Child-Focused Conflict Resolution

Parenting coordination is a process for resolving disputes between parents and guardians that is focused on the children. The parenting coordinator works as a neutral decision-maker to resolve parenting conflicts when they arise. They do this by:

  • identifying issues
  • reducing misunderstandings
  • clarifying priorities
  • exploring possibilities for problem-solving
  • developing methods of appropriate communication and collaboration in parenting
  • implementing the parenting plan
  • aiding parties in complying with the agreement or court order regarding parenting

A parenting coordinator can be retained by agreement between the parents, or the court can appoint a parenting coordinator when one parent brings a court application. Contact Us