Appropriate Dispute Resolution ("ADR") is a process used by parties to a family law dispute to attempt to resolve one or more of the disputed issues outside court. It includes negotiations using a  lawyer or collaborative lawyer, mediation, and may include any other prescribed process such as separation coaching, arbitration or parenting coordination.

Those in the family justice system, including lawyers, parent education facilitators, and others, currently refer clients to mediation, collaborative law, and other out-of-court processes for resolving disputes, in appropriate situations.  ADR may be able to help parents address communication issues and de-escalate situations.  Parents of children need to be able to continue communicating and co-parenting after decisions about custody/access/child support are made.  However, if one of the parties does not want to participate or does not genuinely participate, the only option left is to go to court for an order.

Probably because it has been around the longest, there are more evaluations of mediation than other types of ADR.  Several evaluations have found mediation to be successful in resolving disputes.  For example, over 75% of parents who completed mediation exit surveys between 2010 and 2012 as part of Justice Canada's evaluation of the Supporting Families Initiative indicated that mediation had been helpful to them in reaching an agreement, with most being able to achieve a partial or complete agreement.  Our Dispute Resolution Office reports that 75% of their family law cases have full or partial settlement; Ontario reports an 87% resolution rate, and Saint John reported a rate of 84%.

* 1. Do you think some form of ADR should be mandatory before someone can proceed with a family law application?

* 2. Should the requirement vary depending on whether the person is represented by counsel or unrepresented?

* 3. Should there be exceptions?  If so, in what situations?