Out-of-Court Options: Part 1

October 6, 2017
Rebecca Stanley

While separation and divorce inevitably involve some degree of pain, the process of separation need not be “a fight to the bitter end.”  In fact, other than in exceptional circumstances, going to court ought to be a last resort, for many reasons:

Settlement processes such as mediation, collaborative law, arbitration and negotiation are less costly, less adversarial and provide the best chance of maintaining an amicable relationship with your former spouse or partner.  What are some options you should consider before running down to the courthouse? In this first of a two-part post on out-of-court family law processes, I offer three:

1.     A Kitchen Table Agreement

Where healthy communication is possible and both you and your former partner can negotiate what is in your best interests (and those of your children, if you have them), this is the most cost-effective option. 

However:

2.     Mediation

Family justice counsellors, mediators and lawyers with additional training can help people resolve family law disputes through mediation.  A mediator does not make decisions for you nor impose settlements, but instead helps you and your former spouse reach your own settlement by guiding the discussion as a neutral party.  Some things to keep in mind if you are considering mediation:

3.     Negotiating with the Help of Lawyers

The vast majority of family law cases settle outside of court.  A lawyer can help walk you through the breakdown of a relationship by providing you with information and advice.  If both you and your former spouse have counsel, it is often possible to resolve issues through letters or phone calls between the lawyers or a “four-way settlement meeting” where you, your former partner, and your respective counsel sit down and negotiate a settlement agreement. 

When making a decision about which out-of-court process to pursue, consider what will likely be most effective in your family’s particular circumstances.  Discuss these options with your former spouse, or have your lawyer send information to them on a process that makes sense to you.  But be flexible.  These out-of-court processes do take two willing people who desire to move ahead despite the pain.

Watch for the final post in this series, which will consider three additional out-of-court options: collaborative law, arbitration, and parenting coordinators.

(This post was adapted from a fact sheet originally written by Rebecca Stanley for the People’s Law School).  

Have questions about a family law issue? Contact us.

Rebecca Stanley
Rebecca Stanley
Lawyer & Mediator (Vancouver)
Connect Family Law

Rebecca provides her clients with a solid anchor in the sometimes stormy seas of separation and divorce. She feels fortunate to be part of the Connect team, who understand that it is a privilege to support families through times of transition