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happy family sitting on the couch

Are there “happy” ways to resolve the family law issues that arise after separation? Absolutely. The legal side of separation does not have to be adversarial or hostile. There are ways to resolve legal issues without going to court and without experiencing added stress.


Achieving a happy divorce


I recently discussed how to get a happy divorce. You can apply for an uncontested divorce order to legally end your marriage without ever setting foot in a courtroom. But before you can do that, you and your spouse must work out important matters arising from your marriage, such as parenting, child support, spousal support and division of family property and family debt. Common law spouses do not need a divorce order to legally end their relationship but they do need to iron out the family law issues that arise from their separation.


Happy ways to solve your family law case


Whether you were legally married or a common law spouse, there are many options for resolving family law issues without the need for drawn out and expensive litigation. What is right for you depends on you, your family and your needs and how cooperate your spouse is to resolving matters amicably. Here are some options to consider:



You and your spouse can work out an agreement, either by discussing matters directly with each other or with the help of your lawyers. If you negotiate a written agreement directly with your spouse, it is highly recommended that you get independent legal advice before you commence your negotiations. It is also recommended that you obtain independent legal advice from a lawyer of your choice once the agreed upon terms are reduced to writing. This will ensure you are informed whether the agreement is fair, whether your rights are protected and whether the agreement accurately reflects all of the issues agreed upon.



A neutral mediator can help you and your spouse come to an agreement. The mediation session may be in person, over the phone or by video. The mediator can not make decisions for you, but BC mediators have specialized training and experience to help you and your spouse focus on issues, find consensus, and work toward an agreement. In BC, family law mediators can not provide you with legal advice so you should ideally get independent legal advice from a lawyer before starting the mediation, be represented by a lawyer at the mediation or obtain legal advice before signing any mediated agreement.



You and your spouse can agree to have some or all of your family issues decided by an arbitrator. The arbitrator is like a judge; they listen to each party, consider the issues, and make a legally binding decision. Again, the arbitrator is not your lawyer so you should get independent legal advice or have a lawyer help you prepare for arbitration. Usually, parties are represented by their own lawyers during arbitration. It is important to keep in mind that having a lawyer does not mean things are “unhappy.” The right family lawyer will not use legal posturing or unnecessary aggression. On the contrary, the right lawyer can help diffuse tension, ensure fairness, educate you about the law and ensure the proper evidence and legal submissions are made before the arbitrator.



You and your spouse can choose to do mediation before arbitration. If you choose a family law arbitrator who is also trained as a mediator known as a mediator-arbitrator, you and your spouse can undertake mediation before continuing to the arbitration process. In the mediation session, you and your spouse will try to resolve as many issues as possible. Any issues you can not resolve in the mediation session are then decided in the arbitration with the same person who acted as the mediator now acting as the arbitrator.



You and your spouse can agree to use the collaborative process which is designed to be a “team approach.” Each spouse retains a collaborative divorce lawyer. All four of you meet and sign a “Participation Agreement” which formalizes the commitment to communicate openly and respectfully and work cooperatively. Parties promise to stay out of court and not to threaten to go to court. Throughout the collaborative process, four way meetings are held to work through the legal issues. The process can also involve other professionals as needed such as a divorce coach, child specialist or financial specialist. The goal is to reach a written separation agreement or a Consent Order by the end of the process. As the collaborative process is confidential, if resolution can not be reached, the collaborative process ends and the collaborative lawyers resign and you must then obtain your own lawyer should you wish to commence a court action.


The right family lawyer can help you achieve happy solutions

Even the most difficult and personal issues can be resolved when the main goal is to come to a settlement that is fair to both spouses. Fairness can be assured with the right guidance and experienced legal advice. Valerie M. Little has been a lawyer for over 30 years in the area of family law. She is also a certified family law mediator.


She is skilled in providing solutions to resolve family disputes outside the courtroom and has experience in all family law processes, including negotiation, mediation and the collaborative divorce process.


If you are looking for happy ways to solve your family case, call Valerie M. Little Law Corporation today at 604-526-3333.


Ms. Little assists clients throughout Metro Vancouver, including in New Westminster, Burnaby, Coquitlam, Port Coquitlam, Port Moody, Maple Ridge, Pitt Meadows, Langley, Surrey, Abbotsford, Chilliwack, Vancouver, North Vancouver, West Vancouver, Squamish and Whistler.


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