Thanks to television and movies, many people have developed an incorrect idea of what the divorce process is like. You might even assume that you’re going to be spending a lot of time in court while the details of your divorce are hammered out. However, this is far different from reality. Most splits look absolutely nothing like Divorce Court or Kramer vs. Kramer. In fact, only about 1% of divorcing couples in Canada find themselves going to trial.
Although the divorce process is usually a long road, it does not have to end up with a court battle. The system is set up to avoid a pitched battle between exes and to put the needs of your children first.
What Are the Different Options for Divorce Other Than Court?
If you and your ex are on speaking terms, it’s worth sitting down together to explore the options available to you for settling your separation. Most likely, you have the same basic goals in mind: to do what’s best for your children (if you have any), to have enough money to live comfortably and move on with your lives, and to make the process as quick and affordable as possible.
Fortunately, all of these goals are achievable, provided you can remain civil and work together, at least to some extent. You’ll both need to be prepared to make compromises, no matter what happens, but there are many alternatives to divorce court available to you:
- Your own kitchen table: Sit down and make all of your decisions together, without lawyers or mediators. As long as you can come to an agreement on the major issues such as spousal and child support, custody issues, and division of assets and liabilities, this is by far the cheapest, fastest, and easiest way to end a marriage. Once you have made all the decisions, your lawyers will draft a formal separation agreement.
- Mediation: If you’re on reasonably good terms but just can’t quite reach an agreement on every issue, a neutral third party can help you negotiate. The mediator does not make any decisions for you, but will help you make them together. Once that’s done, the next step is having the separation agreement drafted by your lawyers.
- Collaborative team practice: In this scenario, each of you will retain your own counsel, but the lawyers will work together rather than fighting each other. The goal, as always, is to help you reach a conclusion that is agreeable to both parties, while upholding the rights of each spouse.
- Lawyer negotiations: Escalating to this point means that you may lose control the process if either party becomes entrenched in their positions. Reaching this stage also means a greater possibility of going to court if your lawyers can’t work out terms.
- Arbitration: This is the last-ditch effort to avoid family court proceedings. An arbitrator will look at the case and make the final decision on the terms of your separation. If this happens, the two of you will lose any control over the process.
Why Filing Family Court Proceedings Doesn’t Always Result in a Trial
If you do reach the point where it’s necessary to file court proceedings, it can feel like the end of the road – but take heart. There is still a ways to go before you actually get to court, and many places where you can take a fork in the road.
Before you ever set foot in a courtroom, you’ll attend a mandatory information program session that will walk you through the family court process and make sure you understand it. Take notes and learn everything you can, so that you fully understand the process and what will be expected from the two of you. You may even learn some information here that will help you resolve your case early.
There will also be a case conference, where there is the possibility of settling your case, or at least narrowing down the issues that you haven’t been able to resolve. This is also the time identify any new documents or other information that will be necessary for the case. There may be multiple case conferences before the trial begins to try to settle the case before it gets to court. Usually, once a separation reaches this point, it’s resolved quickly so that both parties can avoid the hardship and expense of a long court battle. In fact, only 1 in 5 divorces take more than one year to resolve.
What Can You Do to Resolve Your Dispute Outside of Court?
There are many options available to you to avoid family court proceedings:
- Be proactive: Keep detailed records and compile all required documents quickly.
- Be organized: Keep track of dates and deadlines and follow up on required actions to work actively towards a resolution.
- Be calm: Focus on the things you can control, including your own attitude and behaviour.
- Be flexible: Don’t get entrenched in ideas that are unfair or impractical.
- Be knowledgeable: Take advantage of the resources available to you to gain a working understanding of family law.
Call Galbraith Family Law
The most important step in any divorce is to get representation early in the process. The lawyers at Galbraith Family Law are dedicated to resolving disputes and helping our clients avoid lengthy court battles. Get in touch with us by sending a message through our website or calling us. Our Newmarket office is at (289) 802-2433 and our Barrie office is at (705) 302-1102.