Friday, January 06, 2006


Separated couples have several options available to them for trying to work out a settlement of custody, support and property issues. Here is a summary of the main ones:

Mediation: This is an inexpensive option. In many jurisdictions in Ontario you can use a local government funded mediation facility. You pay the mediator based on your incomes, but it is still much cheaper than paying for lawyer time. Some couples retain and pay privately for a professional mediator. This is more expensive, but often highly effective if there are substantial property issues involved. In either case, you and your spouse meet with a mediator to discuss your options, and try to come to a settlement. Once you have a settlement, the mediator usually sends the lawyers a memorandum of understanding which sets out the principles for your agreement. You then review the memo with your respective lawyers, and a separation agreement is drawn up by one of the lawyers. In a case where there are some pension and property issues, you may want to consider having mediation with counsel present. This is something that can be arranged easily, and it is often very successful. Here is a link to Limestone Mediation in Kingston, Ontario, where I practice:

  • Limestone Mediation

  • Collaborative Family Law: This is similar to mediation, except that both counsel and the parties meet together without a mediator in a series of four-way meetings. The meetings have an agenda, and “homework” is assigned between meetings (such as gathering information, or having assets valued). This route is very successful in many cases, too. The advantages are that this process is comfortable and friendly. The one potential disadvantage is that if you do not settle in CFL, and have to go to court, neither of you can continue to retain the lawyer you used for the CFL process. This is to encourage you both to commit to the process, and to work toward a settlement. Here is a link to the Frontenac Law Association. You will find on it a further link to the Kingston Collaborative Family Law Association:

    Negotiation through counsel: If your spouse retains reasonable counsel, it is possible that we can negotiate a separation agreement through correspondence. If you choose this route, you need to work on strict timelines, to avoid the matter dragging on too long without a resolution. This can be an expensive option if things don’t move along at a reasonable pace. If both parties have effective, settlement-minded counsel, it can be a quick and relatively inexpensive way to resolve the issues. If one party retains counsel who procrastinates, or who is argumentative or litigation minded, this option obviously becomes less likely to lead to settlement.

    Family Court: You can bring an application in Family Court - in other words, you can sue your spouse. This is the most expensive, time-consuming, cumbersome and emotionally draining of all resolution options. It is not one you want to resort to unless there is no hope of negotiating a settlement. If, however, it becomes apparent that there is little hope of a reasonable negotiated settlement, it may be the best option for you to choose. If your spouse is really uncooperative you may waste a lot of money trying to negotiate a settlement, yet still have to proceed to court anyway. Suing may actually be more cost-effective in such a situation.

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    1 comment:

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