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Is it ever too late to settle divorce matters out of court?

If you are going through a divorce or separation, at any point in the process you can choose a method of alternative dispute resolution (ADR). Through arbitration, mediation or collaborative law, couples can reach agreements on issues ranging from child care to property division. Many divorcing or separating couples find ADR to be a cost-effective process that leads to positive outcomes based on consensus.

One major benefit of ADR is that it lets you avoid the time-consuming, adversarial nature of litigation. Litigants in Alberta must abide by the Rules of Court and the rules governing the presentation of evidence. These rules are highly formal, and discussion between litigants can be very restricted. With the help of a mediator, an arbitrator or lawyers trained in collaborative law, you can communicate with the other party outside of court to come to a mutual agreement.

The ADR process tends to take significantly less time than litigation, which in many cases requries two years just to get to trial. Mediation, on the other hand, often leads to a resolution within several weeks or months. Mediation involves an impartial third party who helps you and your spouse or partner decrease animosity and reach an agreement that is best for everyone involved.

With collaborative law, you and the other party, along with your respective lawyers, formally agree not to go to court. Then negotiation ensues regarding whatever issues are in dispute. If at any point one of the parties decides to go to court, then new lawyers must be retained,significantly increasing the cost to the parties. This situation tends to motivate the parties to work through the issues efficiently and amicably.

In arbitration, the parties hire an qualified person - usually an experienced family law lawyer, to conduct a less formal hearing and make a decision.  

If you have found it difficult to come to an agreement with your spouse or partner, but you still want to avoid going to court, then mediation and/or arbitration may be right for you. 

More on alternative dispute resolution can be found at our main family law website.

Source: Alberta Justice and Solicitor General, "Justice process (family law)," Accessed Aug. 8, 2014

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