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Can we resolve our family law issues without going to court?

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Can we resolve our family law issues without going to court?
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Can we resolve our family law issues without going to court?
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Reviewed: 
March 1, 2021
Answer

Yes, you may resolve your issues with your partner without going to court. You can try to reach an agreement by discussing your issues with your partner on your own, or with the help of someone you both trust. You can also get a lawyer to help you or work with a family law professional, such as a mediator or arbitrator.

These out-of-court-options are sometimes called alternative dispute resolution (ADR) or family dispute resolution processes.

In family law cases, you must think about using ADR to resolve your issues out of court if it's suitable for your situation. ADR might not be right for you if:

  • one person is afraid of another person because there is a history of family violence
  • there are serious mental health or drug abuse issues

ADR is voluntary. So even though you must think about trying it, you can't be forced to use it.

If you have a lawyer, they should also tell you about different ADR options and if they think a certain type of ADR is suitable for you.

You can use ADR whether you're married or in a common-law relationship. And you can usually use ADR for any issue, except a divorce. If you're legally married, you have to go to court for a divorce. But you can still think about using ADR to resolve your other issues, like parenting arrangements, property division, and support.

Make an agreement

If you and your partner agree on your family law issues, you can put what you agreed on in a separation agreement. This is a written contract that you and your partner make.

You don't need to have a lawyer to make a separation agreement. But it's a good idea to have your own lawyer to get independent advice.

Get help from a family law professional

If you and your partner can't agree on your issues, you can get help from an ADR family law professional. They are people who are trained to help you reach an agreement or make a decision for you by using an ADR process. Step 2 has more information on the different ADR options.

Each family court location in Ontario offers subsidized mediation services. You can use this service whether or not you have a court case.

Try more than one option

Sometimes you can use more than one ADR option or switch from one to the other. For example, if you try to negotiate on your own with your partner and find it isn't helping, you might later decide to get help from a mediator.

Even if you started a court case, you may be able to stop and an ADR process if your partner agrees.

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