1. Decide if you should try ADR

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Family Law - Separation and divorce
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Legal Aid Ontario (LAO)
Ontario's Family Law Limited Scope Services Project
National Self-Represented Litigants Project (NSRLP)

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Can we resolve our issues without going to court?
This question has an answer and 4 steps

1. Decide if you should try ADR

Look at your situation to decide if you and your partner should try alternative dispute resolution (ADR).

Many people chose ADR because it also allows you to control the process more than going to court. For example, you can decide:

  • The type of family law professional that you want to use. You can even decide who exactly you will work with. This is different from going to court, where you don't get to pick your judge. You may also have different judges dealing with your case at different times. This can mean that you spend more time explaining your situation each time you meet with a different judge.
  • What timeline fits your schedule. For example, you may choose to meet with a mediator who is available in the evenings so that you can meet with them after work.
  • How your lawyers, if any, will be involved.
  • Who will pay for the costs.

You and your partner must agree to use the same process and you must agree on the details.

ADR can sometimes work better than going to court because:

  • it can be faster
  • it can be cheaper
  • it can be less stressful
  • it is more private than going to court

You may also get more time to discuss your issues when you use ADR. You may be able to discuss issues that you wouldn't be able to talk about in court, for example, how you and your partner can help your child deal with your separation.

There isn't one option that is best for everyone. The best option to resolve your issues depends on things like your relationship with your partner, how complicated your legal issues are, and your goals.

There are some situations where ADR may not be the best choice. For example, if:

  • you are afraid of your partner because of a history of partner abuse
  • there are serious mental health or drug abuse issues
  • you can't talk to your partner even with help
  • you can't work together with your partner even with help

In any of these situations, it may be better to start a family law court case to resolve your issues.

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Canadian Bar Association
Reviewed: July 31, 2017

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