All divorces in British Columbia must be filed with the Court, but disputed issues do not necessarily need to be resolved there also. Couples often start by negotiating the terms of their divorce, but if they reach an impasse on certain issues, they may be able to draw on alternative dispute resolution (ADR) methods before taking the final step of having a judge decide for them in Court.
ADR is often quicker, less expensive and more flexible than litigation. With greater flexibility, less formality and the possibility of working in a less adversarial atmosphere, ADR may also help preserve relations for post-divorce life – a significant advantage for families with children. Our post this week looks at four ways that couples may use to achieve an out-of-court solution to their divorce.
In mediation, a neutral third party facilitates discussions between the two sides. Although often a lawyer too, the mediator does not provide legal advice, but draws on various techniques to help disputing parties find common ground, keep the lines of communication lines open and explore new options and personalized solutions.
In arbitration, the third-party arbitrator acts in a similar role to a court judge. Both sides are given the chance to present their case, after which the arbitrator makes a binding decision. Using arbitration instead of litigation allows a couple the flexibility of choosing their own arbitrator rather than the court system appointing a judge for them.
Mediation-Arbitration (or med-arb) combines the processes and benefits of mediation and arbitration. A couple begins with mediation and through it, may successfully settle the terms of their divorce. If issues remain in dispute, the process then moves into arbitration. Unlike mediation alone, med-arb provides certainty that by the end of the process, disputed matters will be conclusively resolved in a legally binding decision.
Collaborative divorce is a increasingly popular method in which a couple receives support and guidance not only from their own lawyers but also a team of experts that may include financial advisors, divorce coaches, communications counselors, child specialists and other professionals. The couple commits to avoid court for a specified period of time, but if that eventually becomes necessary, both sides must retain new lawyers – a consideration that, in itself, often moves the couple to resolve their dispute amicably.
Peterson Stark Scott has a team of divorce lawyers, collaborative family law lawyers and mediators who can help clients explore the most suitable ADR method to settle their divorce.