How are family law matters resolved?

By Paula Kinoshita BEd, MA, JD

There are different ways to resolve issues related to parenting, child support, spousal support and division of assets and debts:

Negotiated Settlements by lawyers

• Letters of offer and counter-offer can be exchanged.

• Parties and their lawyers can participate in four-way meetings.

• Once the terms of an agreement have been resolved, lawyers draft up a formal agreement and provide independent legal advice to their respective clients.

• The terms of a settlement agreement may need to be incorporated into an order (such as a divorce judgment or matrimonial property order for division of a pension).

Collaborative Process

• Each party retains a collaboratively trained family law lawyer.

• The parties and their lawyers all agree that they will not go to court.

• Settlement is achieved by participation in four-way meetings and by the joint retention of appropriate experts.

• Once the terms of an agreement have been resolved, lawyers draft up a formal agreement and provide independent legal advice to their respective clients.

Mediation

• The parties hire a mediator to facilitate conversation between the parties so that parties can come to their own solutions on all or some of the issues.

• Parties can attend mediation with or without their respective lawyers.

• What happens at mediation cannot later be brought up later in court.

• The terms of agreement are typically not enforceable until they are incorporated into a formal agreement or court order.

Arbitration

• Parties retain an arbitrator and the parties predetermine the process by which evidence and argument will be provided to the arbitrator.

• The arbitrator is not a member of the judiciary, but provides a final decision on the issues based on the evidence.

Judicial Dispute Resolution (JDR)

• In advance of an application or trial, parties proceed to JDR to resolve their dispute.

• The JDR is conducted by a judge, and the process for the JDR is determined by the court and by the judge, rather than by the parties.

• The parties must agree in advance of the JDR whether the decision of the judge is to be binding or non-binding (merely suggestive).

Litigation

• Parties prepare and file documents at court in an adversarial process.

• Judges make interlocutory and final decisions about the issues. First, they determine what the facts are (based on the evidence presented). Second, they apply the law to the facts. Third, they decide the outcome for the parties.

There are some common features in all these processes:

• Disclosure of information and exchange of financial documentation is foundational to each process as disclosure guarantees that the final decision or agreement aligns with the intent of legislation that governs family law matters. If it does not align, a decision may be appealed or an agreement may be overturned by the courts.

• Family law lawyers are an important part of the process to ensure that the process and decision have been fair and that the outcome anticipated can be carried out as the parties intended.

• Different processes can be engaged at different times throughout a family law matter.

Our goal at Quantz Law is to ensure that our clients have been fully informed of their rights and potential entitlements, so that they can be discerning as they decide whether or not to enter into an agreement or to pursue their rights through the court or an alternate dispute resolution process.

We can be reached by email at info@quantzlaw.com or by phone at 780-482-7691.

NOTICE TO READER: The summaries of legal rights and remedies described above are general references to the Alberta laws existing at the date of the publication and may not apply to the reader’s individual circumstances. Also, the laws may change. These legal summaries are not to be relied upon as applicable to your individual circumstances and are subject to a complete review of the facts and applicable laws in every case.