Alternative Dispute Resolution: Negotiation, Mediation, Arbitration, & Collaborative Family Law

Law

You do not have to go to court to solve your family law matters. See the sections below to learn about your options for staying out court, including:

  • Negotiation
  • Mediation
  • Arbitration
  • Collaborative family law
  • Judicial Dispute Resolution
  • Parenting coordination
  • Government resources that can help you stay out of court

Choose the Process tab above for detailed information about the steps involved with any of these approaches.

Please read “Who is this Information Page for?” just below to make sure you are on the right page.

LegalAve provides general legal information, not legal advice. Learn more here.

Last Reviewed: December 2016
Who is this Information Page for?

This Information Page has information about alternative dispute resolution (ADR) for people trying to resolve family-related legal issues. This can include family breakdown (such as separation or divorce), but ADR options can be used to help resolve all kinds of issues.

Wanting to solve your family issues with ADR does not mean that you don’t need to know about the law that applies to your issues. Sometimes, people think (or are told) that learning about their legal rights and options is a bad thing, because it means that they will want to fight and “go to court.” This is not true. Any solution will have more of a chance of success if everyone involved knows their rights and options and makes all of their choices with these rights and options in mind. In fact, when people only find out afterward what their rights and options were, it can lead to resentment, attempts at “undoing” what was done in ADR, and an even bigger mess. Also, if one or more of the parties did not understand their rights, any agreements and solutions that they came to can be refused or overturned by a court.

You are currently on the Law tab of this Information Page, which has general information about your options for staying out of court. For information on the process of finding and working with a professional out of court, click on the Process tab above. There is also important information in the Common Questions and Myths tabs above.

What the words mean

These words are not listed alphabetically—they are in the order that makes it easiest to understand the complete legal picture.

If you are looking for a specific term, you can use the Glossary, which is in alphabetical order.

alternative dispute resolution (ADR)

The various ways that people can resolve their disputes without “going to court.”

negotiation

Any process where there is a “discussion” to resolve a disagreement or conflict, and the people involved try to come to an agreement (this is different from simply “presenting sides” and having someone else make a decision for you).

mediation

A process in which you use an independent and trained third party (a “mediator”) to help you reach an agreement. The mediator does not make the decisions: the parties do that. Instead, the mediator helps guide the discussions in order to help the parties reach an agreement.

arbitration

A process in which you use an independent and trained third party (an “arbitrator”) to make a decision for you. (This person is not a judge in the court system—see “Judicial Dispute Resolution” below for ADR options that include a judge.) The arbitrator hears both sides, reviews documents and evidence, and comes up with a binding decision. This means that the decision must be followed and only a court can change it.

collaborative family law

An alternative dispute resolution process where each member of the separating couple hires a lawyer, and the couple and the lawyers agree to resolve all matters without going to court or threatening to go to court.

party

Any person involved in a dispute. It can also refer to each of the people who sign a contract.

third party

In court processes, this term refers to someone who is not directly involved in a legal disagreement, but who is affected by the results of the dispute. For example: in family law cases, the bank who gave the mortgage on the family home is a “third party.” However, on this website we also use the term “third party” to refer to people who are not directly involved in a legal disagreement but are connected to it in some other way. For example: two people who are separating might hire a mediator to help them resolve their issues—that mediator will be called a “third party.”

party-to-party resolution

When the parties involved in a dispute come to an agreement on their own, without the help of any third parties (such as lawyers or mediators). This kind of problem-solving is also called “coming to an agreement on your own” or the “kitchen table” option.

Judicial Dispute Resolution (JDR)

A voluntary process where a judge meets with the parties and their lawyers (outside of court) to discuss any matters in dispute. The decision can be binding or non-binding.

parenting coordination

A new form of ongoing child-centred dispute resolution, where a professional (for example, a psychologist or social worker) helps parents reach agreements on day-to-day parenting issues.

independent legal advice

Guidance from a lawyer about a contract a person wants to sign before he or she signs the contract. The lawyer makes sure that the person understands the law and legal consequences of the contract, including the person’s rights and responsibilities. In order for the advice to be “independent,” both you and the other party must have your own lawyer. You cannot both go to the same law firm.

enforcement

Forcing something to be done or forcing someone to act in a specific way because of a law, rule, or court order.

The laws that may apply to you

As you work through your legal issues, you may wish to read the laws (also called “statutes” or “acts”) that apply. The laws included on this Information Page are:

Web Arbitration Act
Government of Alberta
English
Web Legal Profession Act
Government of Alberta
English
Web Divorce Act (and associated Regulations)
Government of Canada
English
Web Family Law Act (and associated Regulations)
Government of Alberta
English

When reading laws, you also need to know about the “regulations” associated with those laws. Each of the links above takes you to a page that lists the laws as well as the regulations that go with them. For more information on laws and regulations see the Our Legal System Information Page.

What is alternative dispute resolution (ADR)?

Alternative dispute resolution (ADR) refers to the various ways that people can resolve their disputes without “going to court.” Many people think that having a judge decide the issues is the most common way to resolve legal problems, but it is not. “Going to court” is not required.

When it is possible for families to resolve their issues through ADR, there can be many advantages. For example:

  • ADR is more informal than going to court, and it is usually less expensive and faster than going to court.
  • ADR gives the parties more control over the processes and the decision-making. This increases the likelihood of success.
  • ADR avoids the “fighting” approach of going to court. In court, each person wants to “win.” In the end, one person can end up liking the decision (“winning”) and the other person can end up not liking it (“losing”). Or, both parties may be unhappy with the decision. In ADR, the parties come up with a decision they can both live with.
  • By using ADR, people involved in disputes learn skills that will help them deal with conflict in the future. For parties who may have to continue working with each other for years to come (for example, separating parents who will work together to raise their children), this can help to manage future disputes as well.
Family Violence

In cases of domestic violence, ADR can sometimes do more harm to the victim than good. See the Family Violence and the Legal Process Information Page for more information.

There are various kinds of ADR—some are done completely on your own, others use third parties. Below is a short introduction to the most common ADR options. Keep reading this Information Page for more detailed information about these methods.

Coming to an agreement on your own

The first out-of-court option is to come to an agreement on your own. This is sometimes called the “do-it-yourself” or the “kitchen table” option. Although this can work for many people, it does not work for all. In certain situations, such as in many cases of domestic violence, it may not be at all appropriate. For general information on the process of making an agreement, see the Coming to an Agreement on Your Own Information Page.

Mediation

If you need a bit of help to resolve your issues, you can always use a mediator. In mediation, the decisions are still made by the parties. But they reach those decisions with the help of an independent and trained third party. The mediator does not take sides and does not make the decisions for you.

Arbitration

Arbitration also involves the help of an independent and trained third party. However, the third party is hired to make a decision. In other words, the arbitrator hears both sides, reviews documents and evidence, and comes up with a binding decision.

Negotiating through lawyers

“Negotiation” is a term used to describe any process where there is a “discussion” to resolve a disagreement or conflict. The goal of the discussion is to come to an agreement. This is different from simply “presenting sides” and having someone else make a decision for you. Coming to an agreement on your own and mediation are two forms of negotiation.

You can also negotiate though lawyers. In fact, many family law cases are solved in this way. The parties resolve their issues before ever getting in front of a judge by suggesting different solutions through their lawyers. Most lawyers will try to negotiate before they decide to take the case to court.

Collaborative family law

Collaborative Family Law is another way of working together. It has 2 key features:

  • each party hires a lawyer; and
  • the parties and the lawyers agree to resolve all matters without going to court or threatening to go to court.

Judicial Dispute Resolution

Judicial Dispute Resolution (JDR) is a voluntary process where a judge meets with the parties and their lawyers to discuss any matters in dispute. Even though it takes place with a judge, JDR is technically a form of alternative dispute resolution, because it does not occur “in court” with all of the court rules. JDR can be binding or non-binding.

Parenting coordination

“Parenting coordination” is a new form of ongoing dispute resolution, intended as a longer-term way to manage parents’ disagreements about their children during or after separation or divorce. A “parenting coordinator” is a professional (for example, a psychologist or social worker) who helps parents reach agreements on day-to-day parenting issues. If the parents cannot agree, the parenting coordinator will decide. The focus is on the children, not on the parents. The parenting coordinator can act as both a mediator and an arbitrator.

More information

For more general information about ADR, see the following resources.

PDF Parenting After Separation (PAS) Parent's Guide
Government of Alberta
English
See p. 50 and 56-57.

PDF Breaking up: Without court
Canadian Bar Association
English

Webinar Conflict, Court, or Another Way? Different Ways of Resolving a Family Dispute
Your Legal Rights
English
This resource is from outside Alberta. Learn more here.
Web Family Law Education for Women
Metropolitan Action Committee on Violence Against Women and Children
Arabic, Chinese, English, Farsi, French, Korean, Punjabi, Russian, Somali, Spanish, Tamil, Urdu
This resource is from outside Alberta. Learn more hereChoose your language, then see topic #1.

Video Alternative Dispute Resolution and Family Law: ASL
Metropolitan Action Committee on Violence Against Women and Children
American Sign Language
This resource is from outside Alberta. Learn more here

Audio Family Law Topics in Audio
Metropolitan Action Committee on Violence Against Women and Children
English
This resource is from outside Alberta. Learn more hereSee “Alternative Dispute Resolution and Family Law.”

Web Alternatives to going to court
Canadian Judicial Council
English

Web Resolving disputes - think about your options
Government of Canada
English

Web How lawyers resolve family law disputes
Canadian Forum on Civil Justice
English

French resources

Video Demandez à un expert - Vidéo 1
Family Law NB
French
This resource is from outside Alberta. Learn more here.

Web Family Law Education for Women
Metropolitan Action Committee on Violence Against Women and Children
Arabic, Chinese, English, Farsi, French, Korean, Punjabi, Russian, Somali, Spanish, Tamil, Urdu
This resource is from outside Alberta. Learn more hereChoose your language, then see topic #1.

PDF Se séparer sans l’aide des tribunaux
Canadian Bar Association
French

The following resources are not available online. The links below will give you an overview of the resource, and you can find the full text at libraries across Alberta. For more information about using these libraries, see the Educating Yourself: Legal Research Information Page.

Book Getting to Yes: Negotiating Agreement Without Giving In
Roger Fisher and William Ury
English
This is a private source. Learn more here. Access the full book from a library:Alberta Law Libraries / The Alberta Library.

Book Surviving Your Divorce: A Guide to Canadian Family Law
Michael G. Cochrane
English
Access the full book from a library: Alberta Law Libraries / The Alberta LibrarySee Chapter 11.

Book Stop the Fighting – Alternative Dispute Processes in Family Law (article included in "Family Law Boot Camp")
Legal Education Society of Alberta
English
This resource can be a challenge to read. Learn more here. Access the full article from a library: Alberta Law Libraries / The Alberta Library.
Be Aware

If you have hired a lawyer to help resolve your family law legal issue(s), your lawyer is required to discuss your ADR options with you.

Is alternative dispute resolution ever mandatory?

In general, ADR is intended to be voluntary. After all, the whole point of ADR is to give more control to the parties. There is no control when you are forced.

That said, many court systems recognize that people may not always know about ADR. Also, many parties involved in disputes will be able to resolve their issues using ADR, if given some time, some support, and the opportunity to try alternative processes.

Even if ADR does not fully resolve all the issues, going through the process can often identify some issues that can be resolved out of court, which makes things faster if court is still required for other issues. Because going to court is so expensive (both for the parties and the government), some court systems may require (or strongly encourage) an attempt at ADR before the parties can go to court.

In Alberta, in 2010, the government did try to require parties to attempt ADR before they could go to court. Although this is not yet generally enforced, parties are still strongly encouraged to try ADR.

For more information about “mandatory” ADR in Alberta, see resource below.

The following resource is not available online. The link below will give you a preview of the article, and you can find the full article at libraries across Alberta. Please note that this article is a section in a whole book. For more information about using the libraries listed below, see the Educating Yourself: Legal Research Information Page.

Book Mandatory Dispute Resolution (article included in "Civil Litigation Procedure for Legal Support Staff")
Legal Education Society of Alberta
English
This resource can be a challenge to read. Learn more here. Access the full article from a library: Alberta Law Libraries / The Alberta Library.
Family Violence

ADR is not always a good idea. There are some situations in which ADR will likely not work, such as some situations of family violence. If you are the victim of domestic violence, be sure to be honest about that to anyone who is trying to encourage you to try ADR so that you can discuss if it will be right for your situation.

Alternative dispute resolution does not mean avoiding the law

Using alternative dispute resolution (ADR) to try to solve family law legal issues can be a very good choice in many cases. However, there are a few things to keep in mind.

  • Sometimes, people think (or are told) that learning about their legal rights and options is a bad thing, because it means that they will want to fight and “go to court.” This is not true. Any solution will have more of a chance of success if everyone involved knows their rights and options and makes all of their choices with these rights and options in mind.
  • Family law can be complicated and scary. Sometimes people think that choosing ADR means that they won’t have to learn about, or deal with, the “law” part of family law. Using ADR does not mean that you should not look into the law that applies to your issues. In fact, in many kinds of ADR, you will be responsible for knowing the law (and making sure your solutions follow the law), because there is no lawyer to do it for you.
  • You cannot “agree” to something that is against the law, and for some topics, the courts keep their power to decide. For example: a court can refuse to grant a divorce if there have not been proper child support arrangements made. Also, if an agreement deals with the division of matrimonial property, a court will not turn your agreement into an order unless the parties have had independent legal advice.
  • If one or both of the parties did not understand their rights, any agreements and resolutions that they came to can be refused or overturned by a court.
  • When people only find out afterward what their rights and options were, it can lead to resentment, attempts at “undoing” what was done in ADR, and an even bigger, more expensive, mess. It may also cause further breakdown of what is left of the relationship, which can lead to long-term damage if the parties still have to work with each other, such as if they still have children to raise.

If your family law issue involves a separation or divorce, there may be several legal topics to learn about, including:

separating and divorcing

care of the children

child support for the children

partner/spousal support

division of property

For a complete list of other Information Pages about family legal issues, you can browse the Family Law Topics page of this website, or go through the Guided Pathway by clicking the “Guided Pathway” link on the top of the page.

If there has been family violence

It is very important to know and acknowledge (both to yourself and to any organizations you approach for help), if there has been any domestic violence in the family. It is vital that any victims of domestic violence be kept safe. In addition, the existence of violence is often a critical factor in what happens in any proceedings related to your issues. If there was violence against a child, it could even dictate how you must proceed.

If you are the victim of domestic violence, some things to keep in mind:

  • Be honest and upfront about it. Violence does not go away on its own. See the What is Family Violence? Information Page for more information.
  • Understand that it is never your fault, or the fault of the child. The responsibility belongs only to the abuser.
  • In situations of violence, there is no one right way to proceed—it will depend on the exact details of your case. Sometimes, mediation and other collaborative processes may not be possible. On the other hand, sometimes going to family court may not be the best option. Learn about Family Violence and the Legal Process.
  • Understand that there are criminal laws and protective laws that might be able to help.
  • Know that, if there are children involved, there are ways in which general family law can help to keep victims of domestic violence safer, such as safe transfer and supervised access.
  • Consider talking to a lawyer (or another person who is helping you with your legal issues) about how best to proceed, as the situation is very complicated. See the Community Legal Resources & Legal Aid and Working with a Lawyer Information Pages for more information about your legal options.

In cases of family violence, ADR may not be suitable, as the power between the parties is often unequal. Victims may not be comfortable trying to negotiate, or even being in the same room with their abuser. However, some ADR professionals feel that, in certain circumstances, ADR is possible in situations of family violence, and they change their approaches and strategies to fit the situation.

See the following resources for more information about ADR if you were in a family violence situation.

Web Is mediation a good way to resolve a family law dispute?
Luke's Place
English
This resource is from outside Alberta. Learn more here.

Webinar Conflict, Court, or Another Way? Different Ways of Resolving a Family Dispute
Your Legal Rights
English
This resource is from outside Alberta. Learn more hereStart at 42:30.
Negotiation

“Negotiation” is a term used to describe any process where there is a “discussion” to resolve a disagreement or conflict, and the people involved try to come to an agreement (this is different from simply “presenting sides” and having someone else make a decision for you).

Coming to an agreement on your own is a form of negotiation, as you discuss, state your preferences, compromise, and decide on how to move forward. See the Coming to an Agreement on Your Own Information Page for more information.

Mediation (described in the next section) is also a form of negotiation: the mediator helps the parties “negotiate” and reach an agreement on their own.

Hiring a lawyer can lead to negotiation, and often does: many people resolve their issues before ever getting in front of a judge by making proposals and counter-proposals through their lawyers. In fact, most lawyers will try to negotiate before they decide to take the case to court. See the Working with a Lawyer Information Page for more information.

In collaborative family law (described below), negotiating an agreement (and specifically avoiding court) is the whole goal of the process.

Private negotiators and lawyers

It is possible for people involved in a dispute to hire private negotiators (other than their lawyers). The negotiators do the talking on behalf of the parties—unlike mediators, they are not just neutral “helpers.” This can be useful, as negotiation is actually a highly advanced skill, and, for many people, attempts at negotiating often become arguments.

Lawyers are often trained and skilled negotiators (as that is part of their job). In general, it is rare to hire a private negotiator instead of a lawyer to try to solve family law legal issues, as it can get expensive because you may have to pay both the negotiator and a lawyer for legal advice. Private negotiators are more common for large labour or contract disagreements.

Negotiation styles

If you hire a negotiator or a lawyer to negotiate for you, you will want to do your research to make sure that he or she is a good fit to help you resolve your issues, as there are many “styles” of negotiation. Below are a few common examples of negotiation styles.

The “competitive” or “positional” approach

This is where each party takes a starting “position,” sometimes even an extreme or unrealistic position, and then makes small compromises, usually trying to make as few compromises as possible. The focus is on “tactics” and taking advantage of emotions: in other words, on the “bargaining” itself, rather than the issues being negotiated.

This is the style often used by people without much experience in negotiation. There are several risks to using this style, including creating mistrust, misunderstanding, and unrealistic expectations. It can also have a negative effect on the long-term relationship of the parties (which is not very good if the parties will have to continue to work together for years to come, such as if they are raising children).

The “cooperative” approach

This is where negotiators focus on collaboration and building trust. Parties compromise in order to encourage the other party to compromise as well. There are no “positions” and no aggressive behaviour. The negotiators try to reach an agreement without conflict, both now and in the future. However, the focus is still on the “bargaining” itself, rather than the issues being negotiated.

The “interest-based” or “principled” approach

This is where the negotiators focus on the topic being negotiated. You often hear this method described as “separating the problem from the people.” The focus is not on the “bargaining”; instead, each party seeks to understand the “interests” of the other party. There are no “positions,” and each party looks at how to address his or her own needs and interests, as well as the needs and interests of the other party. Because everyone wants to find solutions, the parties also try to come up with new options, and creative ways of solving the issues. Research shows that this is one of the most effective forms of negotiation, and one in which parties are often happiest with the results.

More information about negotiation

More information about negotiation is in the following resources.

Web Negotiation
Government of Canada
English

Web La négociation
Government of Canada
French

Web Negotiating a Solution
Justice Education Society
English
This resource is from outside Alberta. Learn more here.


PDF New negotiation techniques can offer more value to clients
Boutet Family Law
English
This is a private source. Learn more here.

Web Conflict Research Consortium Book Summary - Getting to Yes: Negotiating Agreement Without Giving In
University of Colorado
English
This resource is from outside Alberta. Learn more here.

PDF Interest-Based Negotiation
Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs
English
This resource is from outside Alberta. Learn more here.

Presentation Principled Negotiation
Society of General Internal Medicine
English
This resource is from outside Alberta. Learn more here.

For more information about negotiating separation agreements in particular, see the following resources.

Webinar Conflict, Court, or Another Way? Different Ways of Resolving a Family Dispute
Your Legal Rights
English
This resource is from outside Alberta. Learn more here.Start at 11:30.

Video Negotiating With Your Spouse After Separation
Feldstein Family Law Group
English
This resource is from a private source outside Alberta. Learn more here.

Web How Do I Start Negotiations with My Spouse?
Clicklaw
English
This resource is from outside Alberta. Learn more here.

Web 10 Tips for How to Negotiate With Your Ex (or Soon to Be Ex)
Karen Covy
English
This resource is from a private source outside Alberta. Learn more here.

Web Staying Calm while Negotiating with Your Ex
Divorce Magazine
English
This is a private source. Learn more here.

The following resources are not available online. The links below will give you an overview of the resources, and you can find the full text at libraries across Alberta. For more information about using these libraries, see the Educating Yourself: Legal Research Information Page.

Book Negotiating with your ex: Divorce is only the beginning
Brad McRae
English
This is a private source. Learn more here. Access the full book from a library: The Alberta Library

Book Tug of war: A judge's verdict on separation, custody battles, and the bitter realities of family court
Justice Harvey Brownstone
English
Access the full book from a library: Alberta Law Libraries / The Alberta LibrarySee Chapter 4.
Mediation

Mediation is a process in which you use an independent and trained third party (a “mediator”) to help you reach an agreement. The mediator may or may not be a lawyer.

Tip

Before you take part in mediation, you should talk to a lawyer to make sure that you know your legal rights and responsibilities.

The role of the mediator

The mediator does not take sides, does not “represent” either of you, and does not make the decisions for you. The mediator also does not provide legal advice (even if he or she also happens to be a lawyer). Instead, the job of the mediator is to help identify issues, develop options, and to guide a discussion to help you resolve your issues. If you need legal advice or any other advice from a professional (for example, an accountant), the mediator will refer you to an appropriate professional for that advice.

Advantages of mediation

There are many advantages to mediation, and include the following.

  • It is usually faster than going to court. In most cases, mediation can be arranged within weeks, and many people are able to reach an agreement in 3-5 sessions.
  • It is usually cheaper, less stressful, and results in less conflict than going to court.
  • Because you make the decisions yourselves, you are more likely to be happier with the decisions than if the decisions had been made for you by a court.
  • Mediation will give you communication skills that will help the parties resolve any further issues that come up in the future.
  • You know your family best: mediation may help you to reach the most appropriate decision for your family’s own circumstances.
  • Just because you agree to try mediation does not mean that you have to reach an agreement—if you are not happy with the mediation process, you can leave and it will be over.
  • Even if you are not able to agree about everything, mediation can help you reach a short-term agreement, so that you have something in place while you try other ways of resolving your issues.
  • Even if you are not able to agree about everything, mediation can help you narrow down the issues, so there will be less to disagree about if you go to court.
  • Mediation is on a “without-prejudice basis.” This means that whatever you say, or offer, or come close to agreeing to during mediation sessions cannot be used against you in any other proceedings (such as if you later have to go to court).

Disadvantages of mediation

As noted above, mediation might not work for everyone. Possible disadvantages of mediation include the following.

  • When there is not equal power between the parties (such as in cases of domestic violence), mediation can result in an unfair agreement if the power imbalance is not properly dealt with by the mediator.
  • One party may try to use the process of mediation to abuse or distract the other party.
  • If the mediation fails, the parties may have to start over from the beginning, which delays the whole process of resolving the issues.
  • In Alberta, mediators are not regulated. This means that not all mediators have the same training, and some may have no training in law. Therefore, you may come to an agreement with the help of a mediator, but if that agreement doesn’t follow the law then a court may refuse to enforce it. Be sure you know your mediator’s training and that his or her training matches what you are asking him or her to help you with. For family law issues, it is a good idea for mediators to have had some family law training.

Is mediation binding?

The goal of mediation is to reach an agreement that will be binding. In mediation, the mediator will help you with this process.

However, once you reach an agreement through mediation, the process is still not quite complete. Before you sign anything, you should take the agreement to a lawyer to make sure that the agreement follows the law. You can also have the lawyer prepare a formal agreement for you.

In most cases, the mediated agreement will be binding as of the moment the last party signs it (unless the agreement specifies another date). However, it is important to remember that if you were married, and the agreement you made in mediation deals with the division of matrimonial property, the agreement will not be binding if you did not get a Certificate of Independent Legal Advice. For more information, see the Property Division for Married Spouses Information Page.

If you later separate, you can also make a court application to have the mediated agreement turned into a court order (which will make it easier for the court to enforce the agreement, if that is needed). See the “What happens after ADR” section on the Process tab for more information about these steps.

Free family mediation

Whether or not you have a court action started, you may use the Family Mediation Program offered by Resolution and Court Administration Services. Mediation aims to help you reach an agreement out of court about your separation issues. To qualify for free mediation:

  • one of the parties must make less than $40,000 a year; and
  • there must be at least one dependent child under 18 years old.

You will be pre-screened to make sure that mediation will be appropriate for you. If you take part in this mediation, you can either come to this mediation on your own, or you may agree to come with your lawyers.

See the following resources for more information.

Web Family mediation
Government of Alberta
English

Web Mediation (Alberta)
Government of Canada
English

Video Mediation - Divorce in Alberta
Native Counselling Services of Alberta (via YouTube)
English

Private mediation

If you do not qualify for government-sponsored mediation, you can check with your local family services organizations to see if they offer any mediation at a reduced cost. See the Community Legal Resources & Legal Aid Information Page for more information.

You can also just hire a mediator on your own. If you use a private mediator, the fees vary; some may offer reduced rates in certain circumstances. See the Process tab of this Information Page for details on how to find a mediator on your own.

The role of a lawyer

Even if you resolve everything through mediation, you will likely need to see a lawyer to get some legal advice before signing the agreement (and, if you choose, the lawyer may write up the agreement for you as well). This is important, because if one or more parties did not get independent legal advice before signing the agreement, a court may decide that the parties did not truly understand the contract when they signed it.

Be Aware

If your agreement deals with the division of matrimonial property, you will each need to see a lawyer to get independent legal advice and a “Certificate of Independent Legal Advice.” This is required by the Matrimonial Property Act.

For more information about the role of a lawyer during ADR, see the following resource.

Video A Lawyer’s Role in the Mediation Process
Feldstein Family Law Group
English
This resource is from a private source outside Alberta. Learn more here.

For more information on what is involved in hiring a lawyer, see the Working with a Lawyer Information Page.

More information about mediation

For web pages and documents about mediation, see the following resources.

Web Frequently Asked Questions (Family Mediation)
Alberta Family Mediation Society
English

Web Mediation
Government of Canada
English

Web La médiation
Government of Canada
French

Web Cost of mediation vs cost of trial
Estate Law Canada
English
This is a private source. Learn more here.

Audio/Web Divorce Mediation
Calgary Legal Guidance
English

Web Divorce mediation can be a smart alternative to litigation
Kirk Montoute LLP
English
This is a private source. Learn more here.

Web Mediation
Family Law Nova Scotia
English
This resource is from outside Alberta. Learn more hereBe aware that there is no “conciliation” program in Alberta.

PDF La médiation
Université de Saint-Boniface
French
This resource is from outside Alberta. Learn more here.

PDF Mediation (chapter from "Bypass Court: A Dispute Resolution Handbook")
The National Self-Represented Litigants Project
English
This resource can be a challenge to read. Learn more here.

For videos and presentations about mediation, see the following resources.

Webinar Conflict, Court, or Another Way? Different Ways of Resolving a Family Dispute
Your Legal Rights
English
This resource is from outside Alberta. Learn more here. Start at 12:45. Note that this resource discusses “open” mediation. Open mediation is rare in Alberta.

Video Family Law: Marriage, Separation, and Divorce
People's Law School (via YouTube)
English
This resource is from outside Alberta. Learn more here.

Video Episode 216: Family Court Alternatives: Web Extra with Michael Butterfield
AdviceScene (via YouTube)
English
This is a private source. Learn more here.

Video Family Law Mediation
AdviceScene (via YouTube)
English
This is a private source. Learn more here.

Video Mediation - Divorce in Alberta
Native Counselling Services of Alberta (via YouTube)
English

Video Divorce 101 in Alberta
Native Counselling Services of Alberta (via YouTube)
English

Audio Divorce Options
Native Counselling Services of Alberta
English

Video Behind the Scenes of Mediation
Mediate BC
English
This resource is from outside Alberta. Learn more here.

Video Alternative Dispute Resolution – Mediation
Feldstein Family Law Group
English
This resource is from a private source outside Alberta. Learn more here.

Video Mediation Instead of Litigation (Courts)
Kahane Law Office
English
This is a private source. Learn more here.

The following resource is not available online. The link below will give you a preview of the article, and you can find the full article at libraries across Alberta. Please note that this article is a section in a whole book. For more information about using the libraries listed below, see the Educating Yourself: Legal Research Information Page.

Book Stop the Fighting – Alternative Dispute Processes in Family Law (article included in "Family Law Boot Camp")
Legal Education Society of Alberta
English
This resource can be a challenge to read. Learn more here. Access the full article from a library: Alberta Law Libraries / The Alberta Library.
Arbitration

Arbitration, like mediation, also involves the help of a third party (an “arbitrator”). However, the third party is hired to make a decision for you. In other words, the arbitrator hears both sides, reviews documents and evidence, and comes up with a binding decision (this means that the decision must be followed and only a court can change it).

Although arbitration is possible for family law issues, it is not that common (it is used more in things like labour disagreements). Many parties feel that if they are going to have a third party make a decision for them, it might as well be a judge. In addition, the costs may not be that much lower than collaborative family law (see the section below), or even going to court, because in addition to hiring an arbitrator, the parties may still need lawyers.

Advantages of arbitration

Some possible advantages of arbitration include the following.

  • The parties can choose the arbitrator (you cannot choose the judge).
  • Arbitrations are usually held privately (which is much different than the public nature of the courthouse).
  • The process is much more flexible than going to court.
  • It can be faster to get an arbitration date than a court date.

Disadvantages of arbitration

Some possible disadvantages of arbitration include the following.

  • A third party makes the decision, instead of the parties themselves.
  • Arbitration decisions are rarely reviewed by the courts. This is generally part of what the participation agreement requires, so that people don’t abuse the process and take everything to court afterward. Arbitration is intended to be complete after a single try—you can’t keep going back to different arbitrators or take the matter to court if you are unhappy with the outcome. As a result, if a court ever reviews the decision, that court may never even look at the facts of the case, or whether the decision was the best option. Instead, the court will often only look at whether the arbitrator was “fair” and the decision was “valid.” As a result, an arbitrated decision will rarely be overturned (generally only if the decision was unreasonably unfair).
  • A possible lack of transparency: arbitration hearings are generally held in private rather than in an open courtroom, and decisions are usually not publicly accessible. This can be considered a benefit by some people in certain situations. Others, however, believe that it makes the process more likely to be biased, which is especially troublesome because arbitration decisions are so infrequently reviewed by the courts.

In Alberta, all arbitrations are regulated by the Arbitration Act. This law sets out many things, including:

  • what kinds of things an arbitrator may decide about;
  • what kinds of evidence an arbitrator may hear; and
  • what kinds of orders an arbitrator may make.

You can read the Arbitration Act in the following resource.

Web Arbitration Act
Government of Alberta
English

If you would like to hire an arbitrator, be sure you know that person’s training, and that his or her training matches what you are asking him or her to help you with. For family law issues, it is a good idea for arbitrators to have had some family law training. See the Process tab of this Information Page for more detailed information about hiring an arbitrator.

More information about arbitration

For more information about arbitration, see the following resources.

Webinar Conflict, Court, or Another Way? Different Ways of Resolving a Family Dispute
Your Legal Rights
English
This resource is from outside Alberta. Learn more here.Start at 28:15.

Web Family Law Education for Women
Metropolitan Action Committee on Violence Against Women and Children
Arabic, Chinese, English, Farsi, French, Korean, Punjabi, Russian, Somali, Spanish, Tamil, Urdu
This resource is from outside Alberta. Learn more hereChoose your language, then see topic #7.

Video Family Law Arbitration: ASL
Metropolitan Action Committee on Violence Against Women and Children
American Sign Language
This resource is from outside Alberta. Learn more here.

Audio Family Law Topics in Audio
Metropolitan Action Committee on Violence Against Women and Children
English
This resource is from outside Alberta. Learn more here. Choose “Alternative Dispute Resolution and Family Law.”

Web Arbitration
Government of Canada
English

Web L'arbitrage
Government of Canada
French

Web Arbitration
Moe Hannah LLP
English
This is a private source. Learn more here.

Video Alternative Dispute Resolution Part II: Arbitration and Med/Arb
Feldstein Family Law Group
English
This resource is from a private source outside Alberta. Learn more here.

The following resource is not available online. The link below will give you a preview of the article, and you can find the full article at libraries across Alberta. Please note that this article is a section in a whole book. For more information about using the libraries listed below, see the Educating Yourself: Legal Research Information Page.

Book Stop the Fighting – Alternative Dispute Processes in Family Law (article included in "Family Law Boot Camp")
Legal Education Society of Alberta
English
This resource can be a challenge to read. Learn more here. Access the full article from a library: Alberta Law Libraries / The Alberta Library.
Collaborative family law

Similar to mediation, the collaborative family law process is about cooperation and not going to court. Each party is represented by a collaborative family law lawyer.

Your lawyers work with you (both separately and as a group) to:

  • gather information;
  • understand what each of you wants;
  • examine the parties’ needs and interests;
  • come up with possible solutions; and
  • help you reach an agreement that you can both live with and think is fair.

If required, financial and mental health professionals can be consulted as necessary. The whole process takes place out of court, generally in “four-way meetings”—the two parties and each of their lawyers. Parties may directly communicate with each other (not only through lawyers), and everyone agrees to be honest and respectful during these meetings.

To take part in collaborative family law, each of you must sign a participation agreement, which states that as long as you are involved in the process, you will:

  • voluntarily disclose all relevant information;
  • take part respectfully and “in good faith” (meaning you are giving it an honest try and not using the process in a bad way);
  • take part in four-way meetings to resolve issues; and
  • not take your issues to court, or threaten to take your issues to court.

As taking part in the collaborative family law process involves hiring a lawyer, you will also want to see the Working with a Lawyer Information Page.

Advantages of collaborative family law

There are many advantages to collaborative family law, including;

  • You and your collaborative lawyers work together to find solutions rather than working against each other as “opposing parties.” In other words, the process is specifically intended to be “non-adversarial.” This is much different from court, where the parties are seen as “adversaries” or on “opposite sides.”
  • Unlike with mediation or the “kitchen table” options, legal advice is automatically included. This helps make sure that any agreement reached will not be rejected or overturned by a court.
  • You will have control over the timing of your meetings (unlike court dates).
  • You will have more control over the process, unlike court, where the judge makes the decisions.
  • You create your own solutions that best meet everyone’s needs (within what is allowed by the law, of course). When people are in charge of creating their own solutions, they are usually much happier with the results and much more likely to follow what has been decided. This leads to fewer disagreements later, which is important if the parties’ relationship has to continue in some way (such as if they are raising children together).
  • Although all information is shared between the parties, the process itself is private. This is much different from a courtroom and court documents, which are usually completely open to the public.

Disadvantages of collaborative family law

Collaborative family law also has some disadvantages.

  • It is not appropriate for all situations. For example: if there is a great deal of conflict between the parties, if there is a power imbalance (emotional or financial), or if there has been family violence. 
  • It requires good faith and commitment—a real desire to play by the rules of the process and to want the process to succeed. If there is no good faith and commitment, or if one party plans to deceive or take advantage of the other party, it will not succeed. 
  • The parties must be able to speak respectfully to each other. There can be no threatening or insulting behaviour.
  • Because of greater involvement by lawyers, collaborative family law may be more expensive than mediation.
  • If the collaborative family law process breaks down, you have to start all over with new lawyers in order to be able to go to court—the collaborative lawyers are not allowed to continue to represent you. This can also mean a much higher cost in the end.

More information about collaborative family law

For web pages and documents about collaborative family law, see the following resources.

Web Collaborative Divorce. You have a choice
Collaborative Divorce Alberta Association
English

PDF Parenting After Separation (PAS) Parent's Guide
Government of Alberta
English
See p.50.

Web Collaborative Law
Gordon Zwaenepoel Barristers & Solicitors
English
This is a private source. Learn more here.

PDF Research Report: The Emerging Phenomenon of Collaborative Family Law (CFL)
Government of Canada
English
This resource can be a challenge to read. Learn more here.

Web What is Collaborative Practice?
International Academy of Collaborative Professionals
English

Web Will it work for me?
International Academy of Collaborative Professionals
English

Web Questions and Answers (FAQs)
International Academy of Collaborative Professionals
English


Web Collaborative Divorce: Top FAQs
Peterson Stark Scott
English
This resource is from a private source outside Alberta. Learn more here.

For videos and presentations about collaborative family law, see the following resources.

Webinar Conflict, Court, or Another Way? Different Ways of Resolving a Family Dispute
Your Legal Rights
English
This resource is from outside Alberta. Learn more here. Start at 38:35.

Video Episode 216 Family Court Alternatives: Web Extra with Jonathan Lazar
AdviceScene (via YouTube)
English
This is a private source. Learn more here.

Video The Collaborative Divorce
AdviceScene (via YouTube)
English
This is a private source. Learn more here.

Video Part III: Collaborative Family Law
Feldstein Family Law Group
English
This resource is from a private source outside Alberta. Learn more here.

Video Collaborative Family Law
Feldstein Family Law Group
English
This resource is from a private source outside Alberta. Learn more here.

The following resource is not available online. The link below will give you a preview of the article, and you can find the full article at libraries across Alberta. Please note that this article is a section in a whole book. For more information about using the libraries listed below, see the Educating Yourself: Legal Research Information Page.

Book Stop the Fighting – Alternative Dispute Processes in Family Law (article included in "Family Law Boot Camp")
Legal Education Society of Alberta
English
This resource can be a challenge to read. Learn more here. Access the full article from a library: Alberta Law Libraries / The Alberta Library.
Government ADR supports and services for families

Going to court can be a long and expensive process. It can also have long-term negative effects on family relationships. As a result, the government of Alberta has several programs to help families try to avoid court, or try to resolve issues with less conflict if they have to go to court.

A few things to keep in mind about the programs offered by Alberta Courts:

  • A family does not necessarily have to be involved in a court action to use these resources.
  • Depending on your situation and the issue(s) you are trying to resolve, some of these programs may be mandatory.
  • Even if a program is not mandatory to begin with, if you go to court, a judge may order you to take part in it (at which point it will become mandatory).

See the Resolution and Court Administration Services website for more information about the services provided through Alberta Courts.

Web Resolution and Court Administration Services
Government of Alberta
English

An overview of various services can be found in the resource listed below, which is not available online. The link below will give you a preview of the article, and you can find the full article at libraries across Alberta. Please note that this article is a section in a whole book. For more information about using the libraries listed below, see the Educating Yourself: Legal Research Information Page.

Book Let’s Talk: The Spectrum of Dispute Resolution Services and Programs Offered by Court Services (article included in "42nd Annual Refresher, Family Law")
Legal Education Society of Alberta
English
This resource can be a challenge to read. Learn more here. Access the full article from a library: Alberta Law Libraries / The Alberta Library.

Parenting After Separation (PAS) course

Parenting After Separation (PAS) is a free course that is offered through Alberta Courts both in-person and online. PAS teaches parents about:

  • the separation process;
  • the effects of separation on children;
  • techniques for communication;
  • legal information that affects parents and children; and
  • how to work together to meet children’s health, social, educational, and emotional needs.
Family Violence

If you attend PAS in person, you do not have to attend with your former partner, and there are safety precautions in place for families experiencing domestic violence. You may also attend PAS online.

PAS is offered in every region of Alberta, but the rules about whether you must take it are different depending on which court you are going to:

Queen's Bench

If you end up going to court for child-related issues through the Alberta Court of Queen’s Bench, the PAS course will be mandatory. This means you must take it. You will likely have to prove that you have taken the course before a judge will give you a parenting order (although there are exceptions: ask court staff).

Provincial Court

If you end up going to court for child-related issues through Alberta Provincial Court, the PAS course will not be mandatory. You do not have to take it. However, a Provincial Court judge can order you to take the course if he or she believes it is in the best interests of the child.

Given that you may be required to take the course, and the course provides very helpful information on parenting, you may wish to take the course as soon as you can. It cannot hurt to take it.

For more information, see the following resources.

Web Parenting After Separation (PAS) course
Government of Alberta
English



PDF Parenting After Separation (PAS) Parent's Guide
Government of Alberta
English

PDF Le rôle des parents après la dissolution/séparation de la famille (PAS)
Association des juristes d'expression française de l'Alberta
French

Parenting After Separation for High Conflict Families (PASHC)

This program is for parents who:

  • have already completed the PAS workshop; and
  • are still struggling to communicate with each other.

It is a voluntary program. This program is currently only offered in Edmonton and Calgary. See the following resources for more information.


Focus On Communication in Separation (FOCIS)

FOCIS is a free, voluntary, 6-hour, skill-based communication course. Again, you do not have to be involved in a court process to take this course. See the FOCIS manual in the following resource.

Presentation Focus on Communication in Separation
Government of Alberta
English

Parents are not allowed to take the course together. Registration information is available in the following resource.

Web Focus on Communication in Separation (FOCIS) course
Government of Alberta
English

Family mediation

Whether or not you have a court action started, you may use the court-provided Family Mediation Services program. Mediation aims to help you reach an agreement about separation issues. To qualify for free mediation:

  • one of the parents must make less than $40,000 a year; and
  • there must be at least one dependent child under 18 years old.

This service is offered across the province. Where mediation is possible, it is greatly encouraged.

For contact information and to register, see the following resource.

Web Family mediation
Government of Alberta
English

Child Support Resolution Officer / Dispute Resolution Officer (Edmonton and Calgary only)

The Dispute Resolution Officer (DRO) program is in Calgary, and the Child Support Resolution Officer (CSRO) program is in Edmonton. These programs are mandatory if you go to court about child support issues in the Court of Queen’s Bench, but also available to parties without any court action started.

Both programs allow parties who want to apply for or change their child support to meet together with a family lawyer, who will mediate. If an agreement is not reached, the lawyer will go over next steps.

Web Family mediation
Government of Alberta
English

Child Support Services

Alberta Human Services provides child support assistance to low-income families who are receiving the following services:

  • Income Support,
  • Alberta Adult Health Benefit, or
  • Assured Income for the Severely Handicapped (AISH).

For more information, see the following resources.

Web Child Support Services
Government of Alberta
English

PDF Schedule A - Child Support Services
Government of Alberta
English
This link only opens in Internet Explorer. Learn how you can view this form in Chrome and Firefox.
Judicial Dispute Resolution (JDR)

Judicial Dispute Resolution (JDR) is a voluntary process where a judge meets with the parties to discuss any matters in dispute. If the parties have lawyers, they would attend too. JDR is intended to avoid dealing with all of the issues in court.

Even though it takes place with a judge, JDR is technically a form of alternative dispute resolution, because it does not occur “in court” with all of the court rules. However, unlike other forms of ADR, it does not happen “instead of” going to court, because parties have to already be involved in the court system in order to get a JDR appointment.

“Non-binding” JDR

JDR can be non-binding. This means the parties don’t have to follow what gets decided or what the judge says. This is the most common form of JDR. In a non-binding JDR, the parties present the issues and discuss possible solutions. Ideally, the judge will help the parties reach an agreement.

  • If an agreement is reached, the judge can grant an order right then and there.
  • If no agreement is reached, the judge may let the parties know what decision he or she would have made if this case had been presented in court. Sometimes, hearing this possible decision can help the parties reach an agreement without going to court, even though they could not reach an agreement right at that time.

“Binding” JDR

JDR can also be binding. In binding JDR:

  • Both parties present their positions.
  • Their lawyers (if they have lawyers) can make their arguments for their clients.
  • The judge makes a decision.

Although the judge makes a decision, it is not the same as going to court. There are not the same rules and processes. It is much more informal, and there can even be direct questions and answers with the judge. Binding JDR is less common than non-binding JDR. Only some judges are willing to take part in a binding JDR.

The JDR process is confidential. Anything you say, or any document that is created, is confidential and “without prejudice.” This means it cannot be used as evidence in any later court proceedings. The judge who takes part in the JDR cannot hear any of your future court hearings related to the dispute (or the trial, if there is one).

In some areas of Alberta, there are not currently enough judges available to meet the demand for JDR. If you would like to try JDR, talk to your lawyer or Resolution and Court Administration Services. They can help you decide about whether it could work for you and when there might be a date available.

Web Resolution and Court Administration Services
Government of Alberta
English

For more information about JDR, see the following resources.

Web Judicial Dispute Resolution (Alberta)
Government of Canada
English
PDF Client Guide to Judicial Dispute Resolution
Field Law
English
This is a private source. Learn more here.
PDF Guidelines for Judicial Dispute Resolution (JDR)
Government of Alberta
English
PDF A Handbook on Judicial Dispute Resolution for Canadian Lawyers
Canadian Bar Association - Alberta Branch
English
This resource can be a challenge to read. Learn more here.

The following resource is not available online. The link below will give you a preview of the article, and you can find the full article at libraries across Alberta. Please note that this article is a section in a whole book. For more information about using the libraries listed below, see the Educating Yourself: Legal Research Information Page.

Book Stop the Fighting – Alternative Dispute Processes in Family Law (article included in "Family Law Boot Camp")
Legal Education Society of Alberta
English
This resource can be a challenge to read. Learn more here. Access the full article from a library: Alberta Law Libraries / The Alberta Library.
Parenting coordination

“Parenting coordination” is a new form of ongoing dispute resolution, intended as a longer-term way to manage disagreements about the children during or after separation or divorce.

A “parenting coordinator” is a professional (for example, a psychologist or social worker) who helps parents reach agreements on day-to-day parenting issues. If the parents cannot agree, the parenting coordinator will decide. The focus is on the children, not on the parents. The parenting coordinator can act as both a mediator and an arbitrator.

Parenting coordinators can be hired by the parties voluntarily (if they both agree) or parents may be ordered by the court to hire one. For more information on court-ordered parenting coordination (which may be done through something called a “Practice Note 7 Intervention”), see the sections called “Possible challenges when making a parenting plan” on the Guardianship & Parenting under the Family Law Act and Custody & Access under the Divorce Act Information Pages.

Advantages of parenting coordination

Some advantages of parenting coordination include the following.

  • Parenting with your ex is not always easy. Parents sometimes need support to help reduce or manage their conflicts and to help keep an ongoing parenting relationship with the other parent. Parenting coordination can provide that help.
  • It is intended to be child-centred, so it keeps the focus on the children, instead of the parents’ “positions.”
  • It can be less expensive than trying to solve ongoing disputes by always going back to lawyers.
  • If both parties are willing, it can help to teach conflict management skills that the parents can then apply on their own in the future.

Disadvantages of parenting coordination

Some disadvantages of parenting coordination include the following.

  • It is not appropriate for all situations. For example: if there is a great deal of conflict between the parties, if there is a power imbalance (emotional or financial), or if there has been family violence.
  • If there is no “good faith,” or if there is any plan by one party to deceive or take advantage of the other party, it will not succeed.
  • Parenting coordinators are rarely legally trained. This has the potential of leading to agreements and decisions that are not legally sound.
  • It can get expensive: parenting coordinators can charge hundreds of dollars per hour. If the parties can’t avoid arguing, there can be a great deal of wasted time and money.

More information

See the following resources for more information about parenting coordination.

Webinar Conflict, Court, or Another Way? Different Ways of Resolving a Family Dispute
Your Legal Rights
English
This resource is from outside Alberta. Learn more hereStart at 35:10.

Web Parenting Coordination
Lorri Yasenik
English
This is a private source. Learn more here.

PDF Parenting Coordination: Frequently Asked Questions
Parentingcoordinating.ca
English
 This is a private source. Learn more here.

Web Parenting Coordination
Riverdale Mediation
English
This resource is from a private source outside Alberta. Learn more here.

Web Is a “Parenting Coordinator” Right for You?
Russell Alexander, Collaborative Family Lawyers
English
This resource is from a private source outside Alberta. Learn more here.

PDF Guidelines for Parenting Coordination
Association of Family and Conciliation Courts
English

PDF Parenting Coordination: Information for Parents and Lawyers
Alberta Family Mediation Society
English

The following resource is not available online. The link below will give you a preview of the article, and you can find the full article at libraries across Alberta. Please note that this article is a section in a whole book. For more information about using the libraries listed below, see the Educating Yourself: Legal Research Information Page.

Book Parenting Coordination: Another ADR Process (article included in "Family Law Beyond the Basics")
Legal Education Society of Alberta
English
This resource can be a challenge to read. Learn more here. Access the full article from a library: Alberta Law Libraries / The Alberta Library.

Process

Learn more about how you can stay out of court when dealing with family law matters, including:

  • How to choose an alternative dispute resolution (ADR) process, such as mediation, arbitration, or collaborative family law
  • How to find an ADR professional and work well with him or her
  • What to expect from the ADR process, and how to prepare
  • What you can do if you are not happy with your ADR professional

Please read “Who is this Information Page for?” just below to make sure you are on the right page.

LegalAve provides general legal information, not legal advice. Learn more here.

Last Reviewed: December 2016
Who is this Information Page for?

This Information Page contains information about Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR), which are out-of-court options for trying to resolve family law matters.

Tip

If you are just starting out with this topic, it’s a good idea to begin on the Law tab of this Information Page. There you will find basic information about what the law says, what the words mean, and other issues that will help you understand better what to ask for and how to get it. Once you have the basics down, you will be in a better position to learn about the process you need to follow to resolve your legal issues.

In general, the processes described on this Information Page apply to people who live in Alberta.

You are currently on the Process tab of this Information Page, which has information about processes involved in using alternative dispute resolution as a way to resolve conflict. There is also important information in the Common Questions, Myths, and Law tabs above. In particular, if you have not already done so, you may want to review the “What the words mean section of the Law tab.

If there has been family violence

It is very important to know and acknowledge (both to yourself and to any organizations you approach for help), if there has been any domestic violence in the family. It is vital that any victims of domestic violence be kept safe. In addition, the existence of violence is often a critical factor in what happens in any proceedings related to your issues. If there was violence against a child, it could even dictate how you must proceed.

If you are the victim of domestic violence, some things to keep in mind:

  • Be honest and upfront about it. Violence does not go away on its own. See the What is Family Violence? Information Page for more information.
  • Understand that it is never your fault, or the fault of the child. The responsibility belongs only to the abuser.
  • In situations of violence, there is no one right way to proceed—it will depend on the exact details of your case. Sometimes, mediation and other collaborative processes may not be possible. On the other hand, sometimes going to family court may not be the best option. Learn about Family Violence and the Legal Process.
  • Understand that there are criminal laws and protective laws that might be able to help.
  • Know that, if there are children involved, there are ways in which general family law can help to keep victims of domestic violence safer, such as safe transfer and supervised access.
  • Consider talking to a lawyer (or another person who is helping you with your legal issues) about how best to proceed, as the situation is very complicated. See the Community Legal Resources & Legal Aid and Working with a Lawyer Information Pages for more information about your legal options.

In cases of family violence, ADR may not be suitable, as the power between the parties is often unequal. Victims may not be comfortable trying to negotiate, or even being in the same room with their abuser. However, some ADR professionals feel that, in certain circumstances, ADR is possible in situations of family violence, and they change their approaches and strategies to fit the situation.

See the following resource for more information about ADR if you were in a family violence situation.

Webinar Conflict, Court, or Another Way? Different Ways of Resolving a Family Dispute
Your Legal Rights
English
This resource is from outside Alberta. Learn more here. Start at 42:30.
Before you begin: Is alternative dispute resolution right for your situation?

ADR can be a great way of resolving disputes. ADR generally gives the parties involved more control over their affairs. It also gives them the chance to resolve their differences privately and without the costs of going to court. However, ADR may not be right for everyone.

To decide if ADR is right for you, you will have to look closely at your situation: Is there a power imbalance between you and the other party? Is the situation extremely unstable? Is there extreme mistrust between you? If so, ADR might not work for you.

Similarly: Can you and the other party be open and honest with each other? Can you respect each other’s views and opinions? Is the other party open to trying ADR? If not, ADR may not be the best option.

Family Violence

Remember that in cases of family violence, ADR may not be suitable. The power between the parties is often unequal, and victims may not be comfortable trying to negotiate, or even being in the same room with the other party.

Why might someone not want to participate in ADR?

Even if you believe that ADR is a good option, the other party may not be interested in it.

Sometimes, people are just reluctant to use ADR. A few possible reasons why people might be reluctant include:

  • they do not know about the ADR processes;
  • they do not know whether ADR will meet their needs;
  • they may not realize how much time and money is involved with going to court; or
  • they need time to cool down. Solving family law matters is stressful and can be quite complicated. Sometimes, people just need time to think before considering alternatives to court.

In such cases, it can be helpful to just give information to the other party about the process and why you think ADR would work, and him or her some time to think about it.

However, in other cases, he or she may have a very specific reason for not wanting to participate. It is important to remember that a person’s reasons for not wanting to participate in ADR are just as valid as those of the person who wants to participate, and that ADR processes don't work if people feel forced or pressured to participate.

Family Violence

In cases of domestic violence, ADR can sometimes do more harm to the victim than good. For more information, see the Family Violence and the Legal Process Information Page.

Helping the other party learn about ADR

If the other party is unfamiliar with ADR, and you believe ADR would be a good option for you, you can introduce him or her to ADR. It is possible that he or she may also want to use ADR once he or she understands what it is and how it might be beneficial. You can try to explain the advantages of using ADR instead of going to court. If you need help explaining, you can consult a trained third party to help you, such as a social worker or ADR professional (see the “Finding an ADR professional” section below for more information). You will want to make sure that this third party is neutral so that the other party does not feel pressured or as if he or she is being treated unfairly.

Give the other party some time to think about ADR. Because solving family law matters is stressful, he or she might just need some time to cool their emotions. Even if the other party is not willing to try ADR right now, don’t be discouraged—you can still use ADR even after starting the court process.

However, it is important to remember the other party has every right not to participate in ADR, and he or she should not be forced to do so.

For more information about ADR and if it’s right for your situation, see the following resource.

Web Resolving disputes - think about your options
Government of Canada
English
Choosing an ADR process

Not all ADR processes are the same. Before choosing an ADR process, it is important to think carefully about your situation. Things you might want to consider include the following.

  • Can you work cooperatively together? If so, mediation might be a good option.
  • Do you want to come up with a solution yourself? Sometimes, people are more willing to follow solutions if they come up with them themselves. They might just need help coming up with the solution. In this case, mediation might be a good idea.
  • Do you want someone else to come up with a solution for you? This might be because the situation is very complicated, so you want someone with more experience to help you come to a solution. In this situation, arbitration or collaborative family law might be a better ADR option.
  • How important is the issue of cost? Different approaches have different costs—this may be important in making your decision.

The various ADR processes are described in more detail below.

Finding an ADR professional

Finding the right ADR professional is important because different professionals can help with different kinds of issues. Perhaps you need someone with experience in valuing a business, or elder care, or child welfare. Perhaps you feel more comfortable with someone from a particular age group. Perhaps you need someone who can speak in your native language. In order to find the right ADR professional for you, don’t be afraid to ask them about both their qualifications and experience.

Family Violence

If you are the victim of domestic violence, be sure to be honest about that to any ADR professionals that you consult. Some ADR professionals feel that, in certain circumstances, ADR is possible in situations of family violence, and they change their approaches and strategies to fit the situation.

Not every ADR professional has legal training. When dealing with a legal issue, you may wish to get help from someone who does have legal training. A professional who is legally trained will help make sure your agreement and decisions are legally sound. This can help protect both you and the other party.

Also, not everyone is an “accredited” ADR professional—someone who has received the proper training and has been officially recognized by one of the ADR “designations.” See the “ADR designations” section below for more information about this and why it might be important.

To find an ADR professional in Alberta, see the following resources.

Interactive Find a Mediator
Alberta Family Mediation Society
English

Interactive ADR Connect
ADR Institute of Canada
English

Interactive Find an Arbitrator or Mediator
ADR Institute of Alberta
English

Interactive Find a Mediator
Family Mediation Canada
English

To find a parenting coordinator near you, see the following resource.

Interactive Find a Parenting Coordinator
Alberta Family Mediation Society
English
    

You can also:

  • ask your lawyer to refer you to a good mediator or arbitrator;
  • check the telephone book’s Yellow Pages (try looking under categories such as “mediation,” “family mediation,” and “arbitration”);
  • check a law library near you to see if a librarian can help you with your search; or
  • ask at a local legal clinic or legal information organization. See the Community Legal Resources Information Page for more information.
Tip

Although there are generally more ADR specialists in urban centres, there should be at least a few who are available in rural areas, or are willing to travel to rural areas.

It is also important to remember that a lawyer, even a lawyer who does not practice collaborative family law, can also be an ADR professional. Specifically, lawyers often mediate and negotiate for their clients, in order to try to resolve as many issues as possible (or even all of the issues) without going to court. For more information, see the Working with a Lawyer Information Page.

Free family mediation

If mediation is the ADR process that you want to use, you may qualify for the Family Mediation Program offered by Resolution and Court Administration Services. To qualify for free mediation:

  • one of the parties must make less than $40,000 a year; and
  • there must be at least one dependent child under 18 years old.

This service is offered across the province. Where mediation is possible, it is greatly encouraged.

For contact information and to register, see the following resource.

Web Family mediation
Government of Alberta
English

Civil mediation

If you are involved in a civil court, and you want to use mediation, you may qualify for the Family Civil Mediation Program offered by Resolution and Court Administration Services.

This service is offered across the province. Where mediation is possible, it is greatly encouraged.

For more information, see the following resources.

Web Provincial Court Civil Claims Mediation Program
Government of Alberta
English

Web Civil mediation locations
Government of Alberta
English
How do you know if an ADR professional is right for you?

Once you have found a few ADR professionals, it is a good idea to research them in more detail to make sure that they are the best fit to help resolve your family law matter. Some of the ways you can further research them are explained below.

ADR “designations”

A “designation” is a status earned by someone who has gone through certain types of training to make sure that he or she is qualified to perform a task. ADR professionals in Canada are given designations by the ADR Institute of Canada.

It is a good idea to ask a potential mediator or arbitrator about their credentials and experience. Trying to resolve family law matters can be a stressful time, so you want to make sure you are getting the best help that you can. Some people may have taken a training course on ADR, but this does not make them an ADR professional.

These are the only official designations for practising mediators and arbitrators in Canada:

  • Qualified Mediator (Q.Med)
  • Qualified Arbitrator (Q.Arb)
  • Chartered Mediator (C.Med)
  • Chartered Arbitrator (C.Arb)

These designations mean that the professional has received many hours of training and passed an exam. They are also mentored by senior professionals and have dealt with many ADR situations.

  • “Qualified” professionals have received the most basic training.
  • “Chartered” professionals are the most experienced and can even teach and mentor others about ADR.

These designations also show that the professional follows a Code of Ethics. Following a Code of Ethics is important because it means that a professional promises certain things. For example, they promise that they are actually a qualified professional to help you with your problem, and they promise to be fair and impartial when helping you with your problem. This might give you an added sense of security.

Some ADR designations also have professional insurance requirements. This means that if your ADR professional is a Qualified Arbitrator, Chartered Mediator, or Chartered Arbitrator, then he or she will have insurance coverage. With this insurance coverage, if your ADR professional makes an error or forgets something that negatively affects you, there is money available to be paid to you by the ADR professional’s insurance company if you sue your ADR professional and win. Qualified Mediators do not have insurance requirements but are encouraged to have professional insurance coverage. You can always ask an ADR professional about their insurance coverage.

For more information about professional designations and professional liability insurance of ADR professionals, see the following resources.

Web Professional ADR Designations
ADR Institute of Alberta
English
Web Summary: Designation Application Requirements
ADR Institute of Alberta
English

Some things to think about before hiring an ADR professional

Before hiring an ADR professional, you want to make sure he or she is a good fit for the job. Somet things to consider include the following.

  • Did you find this professional from a reliable source?
  • Does he or she have knowledge and experience in the family law area you are dealing with?
  • What ADR style does he or she use? Are you happy and comfortable with that ADR style, and do you think that this style is best for your situation?
  • Does the person have a professional designation from the ADR Institute of Canada? (Q.Med, Q.Arb, C.Med, C.Arb—see above for information about designations)
  • Is there anything you can do if you are not happy with the ADR service?
  • Is the professional a neutral person to the family law matter? (That is, the professional is not a family friend or well known to either party.)
  • Does he or she have professional liability insurance? “Professional liability insurance” is a special type of insurance that protects professionals (such as lawyers) from certain claims from their clients.
  • How are the fees to be paid? Is it possible to set up a payment plan to pay for the services or does it all have to be paid at once?

For more information and possible questions to ask yourself and the professional, see the following resources.

Web Resolving disputes - think about your options
Government of Canada
English
Web How to hire an ADR Specialist
ADR Institute of Alberta
English

It may also be a good idea to talk to people who have used an ADR professional before. They may give you a better idea of how you can choose your professional, what to expect, and how they found the experience.

Should I work with a lawyer during the ADR process?

Even if you and the other party decide to resolve your differences through ADR, you can still work with a lawyer to give you legal advice. This may be especially important if you are working with an ADR professional who is not legally trained.

In addition, remember that for the collaborative family law process, each party must have their own collaborative family law lawyer. That process is therefore a bit different than mediation or arbitration where you can have a lawyer, but it is not required.

For more information, see the following resource.

Web Do I Need a Mediation Lawyer for my Mediation Session?
FindLaw
English
This resource is from a private source outside Alberta. Learn more here.
Getting independent legal advice

Even if you do not plan to work with a lawyer for the whole ADR process, you may want to get independent legal advice at certain times during the ADR process. Sometimes you may want a lawyer to “double check” whether an agreement, or part of an agreement, is legally valid. For example: you have come to an agreement in mediation, but you may want independent legal advice to make sure the agreement would stand up in court in the future. Or you might ask a lawyer whether he or she believes the agreement is fair. Remember, you can get independent legal advice at any time during the process of resolving your family law issues.

Preparing for ADR

Even though ADR is generally less formal than going to court, you will still want to prepare for it.

Things you can do ahead of time to prepare for ADR might include:

  • Confirm the date, place, and time of your appointment. The last thing you need on the day of your appointment is to be caught off guard by these small details.
  • Make sure you have all the paperwork and documents that you might need, as well as a list of things you want to talk about. This may include financial documents (such as bank statements), a timeline of events, and any relevant records. It might also be a good idea to bring a pen and paper so that you can take notes or write down any questions that come up.
  • Make a list of the topics you want discussed, so that you can remember to bring up the things you want dealt with.
  • Develop and plan ways to cope with your emotions.
  • Expect the unexpected: new ideas might come up in ADR as you discuss your issues.
  • Know that the ADR process may take more time than you expect. Every person’s situation is unique, therefore the exact time that it will take depends on your case. The time it takes will depend on factors like how complicated the topic is and how willing people are to agree on a solution.
  • Think about whether or not you want to get legal advice. For more information about getting legal advice, see the “Should I work with a lawyer during the ADR process?” and the “Getting independent legal advice“ sections above.
  • Contact the organization or person who will be conducting the ADR session: they can give you the most accurate information about what will happen at your ADR session.

For more information about how to prepare for ADR, see the following resources.

Web Negotiating a Solution
Justice Education Society
English
This resource is from outside Alberta. Learn more here.

Webinar Conflict, Court, or Another Way? Different Ways of Resolving a Family Dispute
Your Legal Rights
English
This resource is from outside Alberta. Learn more here. Start at 4:30.

Web What is Mediation and How Can it Help You?
Alberta Dispute Resolution Centre
English
This is a private source. Learn more here.

Web Preparing for mediation
New South Wales Government
English
This resource is from outside Alberta. Learn more here.

Web Frequently Asked Questions (Family Mediation)
Alberta Family Mediation Society
English

Web What documents will I need to gather and/or prepare for mediation?
Graine Mediation
English
This resource is from a private source outside Alberta. Learn more here. See “What documents will I need to gather and/or prepare for divorce mediation?” Note that some of the documents listed here are specific to the United States, so you will want to make sure you have the Canadian equivalent documents for your own mediation session.
During an ADR session: Participation agreements, what to expect, communication skills, and common mistakes

Participation agreements

Typically, all ADR professionals will need the parties to sign a participation agreement before or at the start of their first ADR session. These agreements generally contain all of the rules that both parties agree to.

These agreements also contain confidentiality clauses. Specifically, they usually state that the discussions will be “confidential” and “without prejudice.”

When something is confidential, it means that it is private. This means you cannot discuss what happens during the ADR session with parties who are not involved.

When something is said “without prejudice,” it means that the statement cannot be brought up in court at a future date. For example:

  • you and the other party sign a confidentiality agreement for mediation;
  • during the mediation, the other party tentatively agrees to something;
  • the mediation process later breaks down;
  • you cannot later say in court “He/she was willing to agree to it in mediation, so why won’t he/she agree now?”
Family Violence

Confidentiality clauses can be a problem in situations of family violence, where one party might use the mediation session(s) for further abuse. If you have concerns or if you don’t want your discussions to be confidential and “without prejudice,” be sure to discuss this with the ADR professional before you sign the agreement.

To see what a confidentiality agreement for mediation might look like, see the following resources.

Web Confidentiality Agreement
Mediate.com
English
This resource is from a private source outside Alberta. Learn more here.

PDF Mediation Agreement
ADR Ottawa
English
This resource is from a private source outside Alberta. Learn more here.
Remember

The content and look of confidentiality agreements can vary depending on the ADR professional you are working with

Basic process of a mediation session

Everyone’s situation is different, so there is no exact process for how your mediation session will run. However, below you will find some broad guidelines as to what a “typical mediation session” might look like.

  • The mediator will first introduce everyone who is attending the session and go over some basic ground rules.
  • If you have not already signed an agreement to mediate, you may be given one and asked to sign it before the session can continue—see “Participation agreements” above for more information about this.
  • The mediator will give both parties an opportunity to speak about what they think the problems and issues are.
  • The mediator will try to help the parties talk through the problems and issues that were brought up.
  • The mediator might take some time to talk to each party individually.
  • The mediator might also give some time to each party to talk to his or her lawyer or other relevant people.
  • Often, mediation can be arranged in weeks, and many people are able to reach a complete agreement within 3-5 sessions.
  • If the parties are able to come to an agreement by the end of the mediation session(s), the mediator can help the parties record their agreement. This can happen in stages.
Be Aware

You will be unlikely to reach an agreement on all of the issues in just one session.

For more information, see the following resources.

Web What happens at mediation?
New South Wales Government
English
This resource is from outside Alberta. Learn more here.
Web Divorce Mediation Basics
Nolo Network
English
This is a private source. Learn more here.

 

Basic process of an arbitration session

Everyone’s situation is different, so there is no exact process for how your arbitration session will run. However, below you will find some broad guidelines as to what a “typical arbitration session” might look like.

  • The arbitrator will arrange a meeting for the parties to talk about what issues they want to resolve.
  • If you have not already signed an “agreement to arbitrate,” you may be given one and asked to sign it before the session can continue—see “Participation agreements” above for more information about this.
  • The arbitration may take longer than you expect, so be prepared for that and try to be patient.
  • The arbitrator will hear both sides and review documents and evidence.
  • The arbitrator will come up with a binding decision, which both parties must follow.

Basic process of a collaborative family law session

Everyone’s situation is different, so there is no exact process for how your collaborative family law session will run. However, below you will find some broad guidelines as to what a “typical collaborative family law session” might look like.

  • Each party will have their own collaborative family law lawyer.
  • Before beginning, you will be asked to sign an agreement to participate in the collaborative family law process—see “Participation agreements” above for more information about this.
  • Both collaborative family law lawyers will help the parties gather information, understand what each party wants, examine the parties’ needs and interests, come up with possible solutions, and exchange information.
  • The sessions are usually “four-way meetings” with the two parties and each of their lawyers.
  • The collaborative family law lawyers will try to help the parties come to a solution that works for everyone.
  • If the collaborative family law process breaks down, you will have to start all over with new lawyers in order to be able to go to court—the collaborative lawyers are not allowed to continue to represent you if you go to court.

Communication skills: The art of talking and listening

  • Be clear and positive when you speak. Instead of saying something like “You are a jerk for not returning my calls on purpose,” try to have a solution, like “We should set up an arrangement about calling each other back.”
  • Focus on the important things. You may have many things you want to talk about with the other party. It may be better to focus on the most important issues first (“the big stuff”). Use the list of issues you made before the meeting to help keep yourself on track.
  • Keep calm. It can be difficult to stay calm when you and the other party are disagreeing. However, it is easier for other people to understand you when you are able to talk to them in a calm and collected manner. Ask the ADR professional for a break if you feel yourself getting agitated. Remember, you might not solve all your problems in one sitting, so don’t try to rush things.
  • Listen carefully and ask questions. As much as you want the other party to listen to your concerns, you have to listen to theirs as well. A cooperative attitude will generally work better than a competitive one. If there is something you don’t understand or don’t agree with, don’t be afraid to ask questions. However, try not to interrupt the other party when he or she is speaking. Wait until after he or she has finished speaking to ask questions. If you are worried that you might forget the questions, you can always write it down while the other party is speaking.

For more information, see the following resource.

Video Collaborative Family Law – The Steps
Feldstein Family Law Group
English
This resource is from a private source outside Alberta. Learn more here.

Common mistakes in the negotiation and discussion process

Regardless of which type of ADR you choose, negotiating with the other party will likely be part of the process. Below is a list of some of the things you will want to avoid doing when you are discussing your family law issues during the ADR process, or even when you are just talking to the other party.

Insulting or disrespecting the other party

Behaviours like calling the other party insulting names will not help you in the negotiation process. ADR will only work when both parties are cooperating. When you feel like you might want to blurt something out, you can ask for a break. This does not mean you should not voice your concerns to avoid angering the other party. This type of restraint is limited to language and labels that are negative and don’t add value to the conversation.

Another type of negative comment to try to avoid is discounting the other party’s feelings. Consider staying away from insensitive remarks like “stop whining” or “what are you so upset about?” Also, you may wish to avoid yelling, acting like the other party’s concerns are not important, or making offensive gestures such as eye-rolling or not paying attention when he or she speaks.

Mind-reading

“Mind-reading” is when you assume you know the motive behind the other party’s actions. Try not to assume that you know why the other party feels the way he or she does, or why he or she is asking for something. Instead, ask questions and have a conversation about why a topic is important to the other party.

Overusing “always” and “never” statements

Starting statements with “you always” or “you never” might lead to an argument about how many times you or the other party did or didn’t do something. Focusing on details like this will likely slow down the ADR process.

Damaging the trust between you and the other party

Lying or not mentioning important facts might damage the trust between you and the other party. Trust is one of the most important things in negotiations and is one of the hardest things to build. Also, remember that one party not having a true picture of the facts can lead to an agreement being set aside by the courts.

More information

For more information about preparing to negotiate and tips on how to effectively negotiate, see the Law tab of this Information Page, as well as the following resources.

Web Preparing For Your Mediation
Mediate.com
English
This resource is from a private source outside Alberta. Learn more here.

Web Tips for negotiating
New South Wales Government
English
This resource is from outside Alberta. Learn more here.

Web Negotiation
Government of Canada
English


Video Settling Your Family Matter in a “Civil” Way
Feldstein Family Law Group
English
This resource is from a private source outside Alberta. Learn more here.
What happens after ADR

How and when your ADR process ends will depend on many things. Perhaps you have a complete agreement that covers all of the topics you both wanted to deal with. Perhaps you have managed to reach an agreement on a few of the topics. Or you may not be able to come to an agreement at all.

Trying again if required

If you find that the process was working, but you were just not happy with the ADR professional or the style of ADR, you can always try again with a different professional or ADR process. If that still does not work, you may have to turn to the court system to help you resolve your dispute(s).

Finalizing an agreement

When you reach an agreement through an ADR process, the ADR professional will generally help you finalize your agreement so that it will be legally enforceable. This will involve both parties signing the agreement. Once it is signed, the agreement is binding (meaning that you will each have to follow the terms of the agreement or the other party could take legal action against you). The agreement will take effect on the date it was signed, unless the agreement states a different day that it will take effect.

It is a good idea to each have a witness to your signature. The ADR professional might be your witness, or it might be another individual. Your witness watches you sign the agreement, and then he or she signs the agreement to “prove” that he or she watched you sign. The witnesses do not have to read the agreement. In Alberta, a witness can be anyone who is over the age of 18 and who does not stand to benefit from the agreement.

Tip

Before you sign the agreement, you may want to take some time to think about it. Family issues are important and often tricky. You’ll want to make sure that you do not rush into things and that you are certain about your decisions. If you are unsure whether you should sign an agreement, you may want to get independent legal advice from a lawyer. For more information, see the “Getting independent legal advice” section above.

Turning an agreement into a court order

In general, the preferred end result of any ADR process is to come up with an agreement without having to go to court. Once you have an agreement, it applies to everything as you move forward. Sometimes, you may need to show other people what the agreement said. For example: if you agree to divide a pension immediately, you will need to show the pension administrator what you agreed to, so that the pension payout can be calculated.

However, some of these people may not accept copies of agreements (even if there was independent legal advice): they may require a court order. To continue with the above example: some pension administrators will not complete a payout without a court order that shows exactly what was agreed upon.

To deal with this issue, the parties who made the agreement may want to have the agreement turned into a court order. When all of the parties agree, you can turn your agreement into a “consent order.”

Turning your agreement into a consent order can also save you time later if there is a problem with one party not following the agreement—see the “Enforcing the agreement” section below for more information about that.

For information about turning your agreement into a consent order, see the “Consent orders” section of the Information Pages that deal with your family law issues—a list of these Information Pages can be found on the Family Law Topics page. More general information can also be found on the Understanding the Court System & Processes Information Page.

Enforcing the agreement

Having an agreement does not mean that the other party will necessarily follow that agreement. Nor does it mean that you will be able to do anything about it if he or she doesn’t follow the agreement. For that reason, once you have an agreement you may wish to turn it into a consent order—see the “Turning your agreement into a court order” section above for more information about that. Having a court order is always the first step to enforcement.

Enforcement” means making the other party follow what they have agreed to or were ordered to do. If you have a court order, and the other party does not do as he or she is supposed to, you will be better prepared to take steps to enforce what you agreed to. For example, you will be able to take the issue to court more quickly.

For information about enforcement, see the Information Pages that deal with your family law issues—a list of these Information Pages can be found on the Family Law Topics page. More general information can also be found on the Understanding the Court System & Processes Information Page.

What can you do if you are not happy with your ADR professional?

It is important to figure out why you are unhappy with your ADR professional. In order to file a complaint, you must have a valid reason, such as professional misconduct or breach of the Code of Ethics. It is not enough that you are unhappy with the results.

Filing a complaint with a complaints registry system

If you believe that your ADR professional did something wrong or inappropriate, and your ADR professional was certified by the ADR Institute of Canada, you can file a formal complaint to the ADR Institute of Alberta (ADRIA).

If ADRIA cannot resolve your complaint with their own ADRIA Complaints Resolution Policy, you might be able to get your complaint resolved by the ADR Institute of Canada’s Discipline procedure.

For more information about ADRIA’s Complaints Resolution Policy, see the following resources.

PDF ADR Institute of Alberta (ADRIA) Complaint Resolution Policy
ADR Institute of Alberta
English
This resource can be a challenge to read. Learn more here.
Web Regulation No. 1: Discipline Procedure
ADR Institute of Canada
English
This resource can be a challenge to read. Learn more here.
Web ADR Institute of Alberta: Contact Us
ADR Institute of Alberta
English
Tip

If your ADR professional was certified by some other organization, you can likely make a complaint to that organization.

If your ADR professional has professional liability insurance

If your ADR professional is a Qualified Arbitrator, Chartered Mediator, or Chartered Arbitrator, then he or she will have insurance coverage. This means that if your ADR professional makes an error or forgets something that negatively affects you, there is money available to be paid to you by the ADR professional’s insurance company if you sue your ADR professional and win. Qualified Mediators do not have insurance requirements but are encouraged to have professional insurance coverage. You can always ask an ADR professional about their insurance coverage.

For more information about professional liability insurance of ADR professionals, see the following resource.

Web Summary: Designation Application Requirements
ADR Institute of Alberta
English

Provincial Court

Queen's Bench

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