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Mediation is a voluntary process to resolve family law disputes outside of court by allowing the parties to control the outcome. The objective of mediation is to come to an amicable resolution acceptable to both parties.

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Research has shown that mediation often leads to better outcomes than going to court. Parties are happier and more likely to comply with a resolution reached at mediation than through litigation.

It also enables the parties to preserve their relationship rather than engage in destructive and emotionally harmful litigation. This is especially important in family law where the parties will continue to be tied together by their children for the rest of their lives.

The mediator is not representing either party, and they are not supposed to protect the interests of either party. Their only goal is to help the parties come to a resolution. There are numerous strategies to achieve this, that can range from purely facilitative models of helping the parties communicate and find compromises themselves, to a more evaluative model based on making suggestions and recommendations based on the mediator’s experience and expertise.

The most important aspect of mediation is that the parties have to agree to the resolution. If they do not agree, then nobody can force an outcome on them.


Arbitration is a voluntary process where the parties select a professional who will make decisions about the issues in dispute. Arbitration is similar to going to court, except the parties get to choose the “judge”, the process moves much more quickly and is less formal.

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Unlike Mediation, in Arbitration someone else makes the decision for the parties and that decision is easily enforceable as a court order. As such, parties in Arbitration must have independent legal advice when signing an Arbitration Agreement.

Decisions at Arbitration are based on the law, and just like in court the parties have the right to appeal the Arbitrator’s decision. As with court, at the end of Arbitration “costs” are typically awarded to the successful party to compensate them for the expense of the process. Arbitrators are specifically trained to make decisions in these kinds of cases and are typically senior family lawyers with significant experience in court.

The Arbitrator must be impartial and give each party the opportunity to present their case. Each of the parties will give evidence and have the opportunity to cross-examine or challenge the evidence of the other party. The exact process by which this happens varies, but Arbitration is required to be procedurally fair for both parties.

There are several advantages of Arbitration as compared to going to court:


  1. The court system in Ontario is currently suffering from extreme delays. The average time to get a case to trial is well over two years in some jurisdictions.
  2. You get to choose your own judge. In our court system many judges who hear family law cases have no background in family law. While highly qualified, when they were lawyers they practiced other areas of law. In Arbitration you’re able to ensure that you have an expert deciding the issues in dispute.
  3. Arbitration is confidential, whereas litigation is a matter of public record. When you take your family law dispute to court you’re airing your dirty laundry in public. Anybody – including the media, your children and anyone else – is able to go to court and see all the documents filed in court. This includes all of your financial information and any allegations made about you or that you’ve made about the other party. In Arbitration, all of this information remains confidential.


Mediation/Arbitration (“Med/Arb”) combines the best of both worlds. The parties will first try to mediate the dispute and come to a resolution on consent. In the event they are unable to come to a resolution the issues in dispute move to Arbitration and the chosen professional will make a decision for the parties.

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Med/Arb involves two distinct processes, starting with Mediation. At any point during the mediation a party may declare that they believe mediation has failed and they want to proceed to Arbitration. Because Med/Arb involves Arbitration, the parties must have independent legal advice when signing the Med/Arb Agreement.

Med/Arb tends to have a higher success rate that Mediation because the parties understand that they are locked into a process and if they don’t come to an agreement the professional helping them will make a decision for them. This discourages parties from taking an unreasonable position.

If a resolution cannot be reached during Mediation, the parties will move to Arbitration with all the advantages described above. A decision can generally be made very quickly as the parties will be prepared and have exchanged all necessary documents for the Mediation.


Parenting Coordination (“PC”) is very different from Mediation and Arbitration. Rather than trying to help people resolve a dispute, PC is about trying to help people co-parent after there is a final resolution. The Parenting Coordinator helps address any disputes that crop up within the context of the resolution.

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PC is a voluntary process parties can agree to after their initial dispute comes to a resolution. Often it is included as a term of a final settlement, but PC cannot be forced on the parties. 

PC is similar to Med/Arb in that it involves an effort to come to an amicable resolution first, and if the parties are unable to do so then the Parenting Coordinator can make the decision for them.

Typical issues in PC are things like disputes over minor adjustments to the schedule, division of holidays, special occasions and making joint decisions about things like school, medical issues and extra-curricular activities.

PC can be incredibly helpful for parties after separation. Research has shown that ongoing conflict between parties after separation has a very negative impact on children and their life outcomes. However, children of divorce have normal life outcomes where their parents are able to keep conflict to a minimum and promote a healthy relationship with each party.

Because PC involves an element of Arbitration, parties must have independent legal advice before signing a PC Agreement.


    Going to court is generally the least desirable way to resolve a family law dispute, but sometimes it’s the only option. Because every other method of dispute is voluntary, if one party refuses to participate then your only option is to go to court.

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    I have been a litigator for five years, and while my practice has transitioned to Alternative Dispute Resolution I continue to handle a small number of select litigation files.

    I continue to be a panel lawyer for the Office of the Children’s Lawyer and represent children in cases of divorce, separation and child protection. Additionally, I continue to act for parents in special cases, and often at discounted rates. However, I am very selective about what litigation files I handle.

    The kinds of private litigation files I continue to act on are appeals of a final order, matters that are referred to me on the eve of trial, and high conflict matters involving allegations of family violence and tort claims.

    If you think your case is one I might be interested in, or you are counsel who wants to refer a case of this nature, please contact my office to discuss it further.