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Three Alternatives to Courtroom Settlement


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If you have a family court date coming up, you may be feeling overwhelmed with emotions—anxiety, depression and anger are totally normal, but not always necessary. Going to court is not always necessary. There are other options available to you—make sure you know what they are.  Hart Legal family lawyers have experience in family negotiations and alternative dispute resolution (ADR) and can help parties work towards a solution outside of the courtroom. Be sure to discuss each of the following options with your Hart Legal family lawyer.

Negotiations / 4-Way Meeting

Before retaining a lawyer, you should always try to negotiate with your spouse without lawyers. If the negotiation does not go well, the parties and their lawyers, may start a process called a 4-way meeting, prior to initiating court proceedings. This is the most cost-effective way to settle your family law dispute. Hart Legal has a team of lawyers that can help you prepare for a 4-way meeting. The meeting can take anywhere from one hour to a full day, and your Hart Legal lawyer will advise if you are on a path to resolution or if you should call it a day, depending on how negotiations are going. 


Family mediation in family law is another ADR method. In it, the parties retain a neutral third-party professional to assist them in reaching an agreement. The purpose of mediation is to assist the parties in accepting their situation, understanding the other parties’ position, and trying to reach an agreement. The mediator cannot force the parties to reach an agreement or make any decisions for them. Hart Legal family law lawyers work with mediators daily. They attend family mediation with clients with the expectation to settle the family law matter; however, there are times when mediation fails. This is usually due to the parties not being willing to compromise, hostility between the parties, non-disclosure, or even lawyers not having the proper mediation skills necessary to negotiate. Hart Legal lawyers are highly trained in negotiations and mediations. 


Arbitration is a procedure where the parties agree to appoint a neutral third-party person to decide on their issues (sometimes this can be the same person as the mediator). In arbitration, the steps are similar to those in a trial, and the arbitrator is similar to a judge. The parties will make submissions and present evidence; the arbitrator will make a binding decision, just like a judge. There are a few benefits to this:

  1.  the parties get to choose their arbitrator—they cannot pick their judge. Hart Legal family lawyers work with certain Arbitrators in BC and can help you find an arbitrator who will be best for your family matter;
  2.  the cost of arbitration is typically lower than going to a family law trial; and
  3.  scheduling an arbitration can happen quicker than a trial. Trial times are scheduled by the court, and securing a date requires advance notice and filing various pleadings. Scheduling an arbitration is easy and is on the arbitrator’s schedule.

There are various ways to settle your family law matter outside of court. Of course, there can sometimes be risks associated with using ADR methods instead of proceeding to court; however, alternative methods often offer a more satisfactory result for the parties.

Hart Legal can provide you with information about any of the ADR methods mentioned, and Hart Legal’s family law lawyers provide free initial consultations. The firm offers family law legal services in Victoria, BC and Vancouver, BC, and can offer family law services throughout British Columbia.

Please call the Vancouver office at 778-328-2828 or the Victoria office at 250-388-9477, or email to schedule your free family law consultation with one of Hart Legal’s best family law lawyers.

Darren Hart is a senior lawyer with Hart Legal. He is a trial lawyer, passionate about finding innovative, strategic and positive ways to avoid and resolve family conflict. He recently appeared on America’s Premier Experts to discuss his unique and innovative approach to family law. He has developed a business model at Hart Legal that has assembled an outstanding team of lawyers, executive managers and support staff, all of whom are committed to resolving family conflict in a way that empowers and inspires clients.

Created by BCBusiness in partnership with Hart Legal