Problem Solving: Out-of-Court Options
Court is not the only way to solve problems in difficult family situations. Parents can save a ton of money and avoid a ton of stress by pursuing out-of-court options. Those that can make decisions without undue influence should consider these options before filing a court application:
- Informal Meetings
- 4-Way Meetings
- Separation Agreements
- Parenting Experts
Parents that are on good terms with each can meet informally and negotiate to create a plan to resolve any remaining matters. Parents can discuss and agree on parenting schedules and decision-making responsibilities, financial support obligations and division of property. Any deals reached between parties should be put in writing, dated and signed by everyone.
Parents that are not comfortable meeting with each other alone can hire a mediator to assist with the negotiation process. A mediator helps keep the conversation on track and can provide notes with the outcome.
Parents with their own independent counsel can have a meeting accompanied with their lawyers to discuss settlement options. Each parent can make requests and trust that their lawyer will speak up if an agreement is unfair to them for whatever reason. Any agreements reached can be prepared or formalized by the lawyers.
A Separation Agreement (or Minutes of Settlement) is a contract that sets out the terms of the agreement reached outside of court. Parents can draft the contract themselves, with the help of a mediator or with the assistance of legal professionals. Lawyers must be consulted for independent legal advice to avoid any to future issues with enforcement.
Parents can hire an Arbitrator to act as their own private judge outside of court. The Arbitrator listens to both sides of the dispute, reviews the evidence then making a decision that must be followed by everyone. This option should be discussed with a lawyer to determine if it’s a good fit.
Parents that are struggling with co-parenting can hire a Parenting Coordinator to help repair the co-parenting relationship. A Parenting Coordinator is trained to identify issues and work with the parties to find solutions. This is a great option for improving communication but will be of little value if either parent is unwilling to follow terms that are not enforceable. For involvement to be enforced or used as evidence, speak with a lawyer to learn about the Practice Note Intervention options.
When there is a power imbalance or history of family violence, these options may not a good fit. Both people must feel comfortable negotiating and be willing to compromise. If either person is unreasonable or abusive: non-court options are a delay tactic to letting the judge decide.
Edmonton Family Network has connections to legal service providers and community support services. We help people discover great options for their situation. Email us to learn more.