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When do you really need to go to court?

Updated: Apr 8, 2022

There are many ways a family law dispute can be solved outside of the courtroom. The new Divorce Act mentions negotiation, mediation and collaborative law. However, there are other forms of family dispute resolution. Some provinces permit the use of arbitration to solve family law disputes.

Deciding which approach is best for you will depend on your situation.


If you and your former partner cannot come to an agreement or are only able to agree on certain issues, you may need someone else to make the decision for you. Arbitration is one way that allows you to have someone else make the decision for you. You can also go to court. Going to court means that you’re asking a judge to decide what outcomes are appropriate for you and your family. You should not expect the court to give you a court order right away. It can take a long time.



There are many steps in the court process, which may be different depending on where you live. Even if you end up going to court, the court will encourage you and your former partner to come to an agreement through another method, if possible. In fact, a judge may try to settle the issues out of court themselves as well – for example with a procedure called a settlement conference. At a settlement conference a judge gives you and your former partner options about how some or all of the issues can be settled, without going further in the court process.


As well, the courts in your province may make you and your former partner participate in some other form of dispute resolution before moving forward with a court action. If you cannot settle your dispute, a judge will hold a hearing or a trial, and then make a court order. You must do what the court order says. You can also ask the court to include an agreement you have made in a court order. This is called a “consent order” because you and your former partner have agreed to it. The process is much simpler than when the parties do not agree.


You may solve your disputes outside of court through family dispute resolution, but only a court can grant a divorce. Once the judge grants the divorce, the court will issue a divorce certificate proving that you are no longer married. There may be other reasons you need to get a court order. For example, if you want your agreement to be recognized as a court order in another province or country, you will need to go to court. For more information, Fact Sheet - Family Dispute Resolution prepared by the Government of Canada here.


Contact us today to find out how you can settle your family matter out of court.





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