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Settling Disputes Through Alternative Dispute Resolution Methods

Not all legal disputes need to be resolved in court.  Most family law cases settle using out-of-court alternatives.  These out-court-alternatives, or alternative dispute resolution methods, include mediation, arbitration, and the collaborative process.  It is not always possible to avoid court, but alternative dispute resolution methods are far more beneficial to resolve legal problems that come up when a relationship ends, especially if children are involved.


  1. Mediation

Mediation is a type of negotiation that is assisted by a neutral, third party called a mediator.  Although a mediator does not have decision-making power, he or she can assist the parties with identifying the issues between them, and help negotiate and reach a resolution.  Parties can attend the mediation alone, or with a lawyer.

  1. Arbitration

Parties who cannot agree on some or all of the issues in their family law dispute can attend arbitration.  Often, each of the parties will bring their own lawyer to the arbitration.  An arbitrator is an independent third party who acts like a judge.  He or she will listen to both parties, and then make a decision that is legally binding and enforceable in court.

  1. Collaborative Process

In the collaborative process, the parties and their lawyers work together, and utilize other professionals, such as divorce coaches, to create solutions that work for both parties.  The collaborative process requires the parties to agree not to go to court, to have open and honest communication, and to work as a team to resolve their dispute.


  1. Non-adversarial and flexible

When parties mediate or engage in the collaborative process, they are in control.  They are directly involved in the process, and work together to come up with creative solutions to resolve their disputes.

  1. Less expensive and time-consuming

The cost of litigation is high and unnecessarily drains family resources, particularly because the process takes a lot of time.  Alternative dispute resolution is often cheaper, and less time-consuming and stressful than going to court.

  1. Private and confidential

As alternative dispute resolution occurs outside of the court, it avoids publicity of personal information.  The only people in attendance are the parties, their lawyers, and/or the mediator or arbitrator.  Negotiations are private, and cannot be introduced as evidence if the parties proceed to court.

  1. Preserves important relationships

Since alternative dispute resolution methods encourage team work, it encourages the parties to maintain a mutual respect and helps maintain relationships in the future.  When children are involved, it encourages positive co-parenting.

If you have questions about alternative dispute resolution, or are looking for a mediator or collaborative process lawyer contact Cohen Buchan Edwards LLP at 604.273.6411 and speak with one of our family lawyers.