I am considering separation or divorce. What are my legal options?

If you are in the process of a separation or a divorce, there are many issues around finances, division of assets and parenting that will need to be managed. You and your ex-partner can choose from a variety of legal approaches, depending upon your unique circumstances. You may elect to go to court to try and resolve any disputes, also called Litigation, or you may wish to consider an Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) method such as Collaborative Law, Mediation, Arbitration or Parenting Coordination, and avoid the court process altogether.

What is Collaborative Practice?

Collaborative Law, also known as Collaborative Practice, is when two separating parties enter into a written agreement to meet, along with their individual lawyers (who have been trained in the collaborative divorce process), to work together to resolve their post separation legal issues, while avoiding the expense and time constraints of court.

Collaborative Law focuses on open communication and consensus building, and seeks to avoid an adversarial based process. Additional divorce coaches, child specialists and financial advisors may also participate in the process to ensure a fair and equitable settlement is reached which both parties can rely upon.

How do I find a Collaboratively trained divorce lawyer?

You may contact us directly and ask to speak to Jonathan Lazar, Fiona Beveridge or Craig Neville.

What is Mediation?

Mediation is when the two separating parties and their individual lawyers meet with a trained independent mediator who guides the negotiation process. If a settlement is reached, legal documents are drafted by the participating lawyers and processed accordingly. If a settlement cannot be reached on one or more issues, the parties can then be directed to an Arbitrator, who has the ability to make a legally binding decision, or they may choose to proceed to court.

How do I find a family law mediator?

You may contact Jonathan Lazar or Craig Neville directly, or visit the Mediate BC website. You may also contact the Law Society of British Columbia, which retains a roster of lawyers who are qualified family law mediators.

What is Arbitration?

Arbitration is similar to mediation in that the the two parties and their individual lawyers meet with an independent third party who guides the negotiation process. The difference being that if a settlement cannot be reached on one or more of the issues, an arbitrator then has the authority to make a legally binding decision, enforceable by the courts.

How do I find a family law arbitrator?

You may contact Craig Neville or Fiona Beveridge directly, or you can find a list of qualified arbitrators on the ADR Institute of BC website.

What is Parenting Coordination?

Parenting Coordination is a program wherein specially trained family lawyers, psychologists, and counselors (AKA Parenting Coordinators) work together with families that have already settled the primary custody and support issues regarding shared children, but who continue to have ongoing parenting disagreements that require third party assistance to resolve.

The two separating parties enter into a written agreement, either voluntarily or by court order, to work with a parenting coordinator for a designated period of time (typically two years). A parenting coordinator will mediate negotiations between the parties and has the authority to make legally binding decisions on certain issues if a settlement cannot be reached.

How do I find a qualified Parenting Coordinator?

You may contact Craig Neville, Fiona Beveridge or Shelagh Kinney directly, or you can find a roster of Parenting Coordinators on the BC Parenting Coordinators Roster Society website.

What is Litigation?

Litigation is necessary when separating couples do not feel that a negotiation process can work for them and they need to go to court. In British Columbia one party initiates a legal action against the other, usually with the assistance of a lawyer, which is then filed with the applicable Court Registry and personally served on the other party.

How much does Litigation cost?

The cost of litigation is hard to predict as the process can take on a life of its own. One party can drive up the costs of the other through various court procedures, and subsequent costly court procedures can then become necessary to move things forward. Costs can get into the tens of thousands quite easily.

Why should I consider an Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) method to settle my family dispute?

ADR methods such as Collaborative Divorce, Mediation, Arbitration and Parenting Coordination are typically cheaper, faster and more flexible than going to court, and the processes can be tailored to your family’s unique circumstances. You and your ex-partner can make numerous decisions regarding the structure of the process and can better protect your co-parenting relationship in the process. ADR methods are designed to empower families to find solutions that work best for them in the short and long term.

Litigation can be extremely costly, can take months or years to resolve the issues, and relies on an adversarial approach that is hard on already tested family relationships. The litigation process also leaves the decision making in the hands of judges, who do not have a personal stake in the outcome, and are constricted by formal laws that may not always align with the needs of families themselves. While Litigation is sometimes necessary to resolve family disputes, we encourage families to consider Alternative Dispute Resolution methods when possible.

Can ADR methods be used for only certain issues?

ADR methods can be used to resolve all of the typical legal issues that arise when couples separate.

Can anyone use ADR methods?

Anyone interested in negotiating a settlement can use any of the ADR methods mentioned above. Please contact one of our family law lawyers to see when method may work best for your situation.

What are the costs of ADR?

Costs vary, but in most cases ADR methods are significantly cheaper than going to court. Typically ADR practitioners charge their regular lawyer rate, but the process is more efficient than litigation, leading to lesser costs for the client and a faster outcome.

When might ADR not be the right way to go?

If you are not prepared to negotiate in good faith, are not willing to disclose financial details honestly, or do not trust your ex-spouse to do so, then ADR process may not be right for your situation. Also, if there is a history of family violence, these methods may not be appropriate.

Is the ADR process confidential?

In an effort to encourage a settlement, nothing that is said in mediation can later be used against either party in court (with a couple of very narrow exceptions involving safety issues relating to children or the parties themselves). The goal is to promote the open sharing of ideas without fear that they will be used in court if a settlement is not reached.

What if my ex has been the breadwinner and knows the finances of the family, and I don’t?

It is not uncommon for one spouse to have been more involved than the other in the family finances, child rearing, or work outside the home. Part of the role of the mediator or arbitrator is to assist both parties with the production of relevant information so that both have access to all the necessary information to make decisions about their affairs.

Do I have to be in the same room as my ex during the process?

While there will be some joint communications via telephone or email, you do not have to be in the same room as your ex for any of the ADR methods described, although you are welcome to be if this is not a problem for you or your ex.