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Family Court and Naivety

November 24, 2015

Yesterday I spent the day at the first annual conference of the Family Dispute Resolution Institute of Ontario. Of particular interest to me was the panel of parents who spoke of their experience resolving matters with legal support. The panel consisted of 4 women, one of whom arrived late.

Three of the women sought to resolve their matter through the court system and the fourth through Collaborative law.

This is what I learned:

Two of three women litigated 7 years each at costs of about $200,000 each. Both of these women spoke of compromised mental health the result of their experience.

One woman used Collaborative Law and settled in 2.5 days.

One woman said she spent more on lawyers than she received in support payments. She reflected, “Court has a roar, but no bite.”

Another woman who went to court said she had 3 different judges on 3 different appearances. They then went to use mediation and included an assessor for a creative approach. She was satisfied with this approach and outcome. She reflected, “The best part of the ADR experience was picking your service provider and ability of being creative.”

When the women who went through court reflected on the effect of family justice system experience, the advised of the following:

Loss of self;
Loss of privacy;
Loss of mental health;
Loss of confidence in our institutions;
Loss of finances.

The woman who chose Collaborative Law said she did so to avoid being combative. She was happy with the outcome. She did not share the experiences above.

The professor who moderated the panel advised that these women’s experiences were consistent with several hundred of other persons  interviewed with regard to peoples experience with the family justice system.

It begs the question why anyone would voluntarily opt to go through that. It just may be that the reason is as simple as naivety.

People have a belief that the family justice system is quick, efficient and just.

Court certainly isn’t quick and efficient.

What people do not realize is that there are a series of meetings (called conferences) ahead of any trial to help organize people for the trial AND to help persuade people to find solutions ahead of trial. The series of meetings typically are spaced several months apart making the timeline to trial at least a year away and very often several years away.

To add, statistically, less than 3% of family court actions actually end in a trial. The other 97% of cases settle along the way to trial and most of these cases will settle through mediation and lawyer assisted negotiation.

As for “just”, well that is in the eye of the beholder. When two people with diametrically opposed views enter a combative dispute resolution arena, you know at least one will not be pleased with the outcome and in many cases where a judge tries to find a middle position, both may be unsatisfied. So as for “just”, this is a difficult concept in family law.

If you want to retain some control of the outcome, control costs and your sanity, consider the experience of the one women above who opted for Collaborative Law and then the experience of the woman who opted out of the court system for mediation and other creative support. In the scheme of things, these experiences were positive.

This 2-minute video provides some other considerations for choosing anything but court to settle a family dispute:


In the end, how you want to resolve your family dispute is up to you. Hopefully cooler heads prevail and you choose an approach that provides a more timely and reasonable process.

I am Gary Direnfeld and I offer a number of creative approaches to resolve family disputes.

Gary Direnfeld, MSW, RSW

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Gary Direnfeld is a social worker. Courts in Ontario, Canada, consider him an expert in social work, marital and family therapy, child development, parent-child relations and custody and access matters. Gary is the host of the TV reality show, Newlywed, Nearly Dead, parenting columnist for the Hamilton Spectator and author of Marriage Rescue: Overcoming the ten deadly sins in failing relationships. Gary maintains a private practice in Dundas Ontario, providing a range of services for people in distress. He speaks at conferences and workshops throughout North America.

If your relationship is faltering, then set it as your priority.

Read: Marriage Rescue: Overcoming ten deadly sins in failing relationships.

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  1. “Roar but no bite.” This. Unfortunately, had a husband that refused to cooperate with anything, thus adding time and expense to the process.

Trackbacks & Pingbacks

  1. Family Court and Naivety | bcbonusmomblog
  2. Family Court and Naivety | Parental Alienation- UNCOVERED

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