Stay out of Court- Unless Absolutely Necessary!!
Posted: March 11, 2018
We have known for a very long time that most family disputes should be kept out of Court. But now we have clear empirical evidence to support this from Osgoode Hall Law School, York University.
Keeping family law disputes out of court yields better results at less cost, study finds.The study is well laid out that it behooves me to quote the recent publication in its entirety.
- Collaborative Settlement Processes. 90% of lawyers prefer to use collaborative processes whenever possible, and more than 94% of lawyers say their clients are satisfied with the results they achieve through collaborative processes.
- 78% of lawyers agree that mediation is usually cost-effective, and 69% agree that mediation is usually fast and efficient.
- Arbitration. 58% of lawyers report that their clients are satisfied with the results that they achieve through arbitration (this compares with a 94% perceived client satisfaction rate for collaborative processes and 82% for mediation), while 90% of lawyers agree that they can deal with complex issues better through arbitration than other processes.
- Courts. Views regarding the public court system in the context of family law are less positive; although approximately 64% of lawyers agree that litigation is suited to high-conflict family law disputes, most – over 83% of lawyers – disagree that litigation is either fast or efficient.
The lawyers responding to CRILF’s survey clearly view collaborative settlement processes and mediation as producing faster, less-expensive, longer-lasting resolutions results that are more likely to be in the interests of their clients and their clients’ children, than either arbitration or litigation. They also prefer to resolve disputes through collaborative processes and mediation, than through litigation. They prefer to arbitrate family law disputes rather than litigate, and view arbitration as faster and less expensive than litigation.
These findings beg the question of why litigation continues to be so widely used by separating parents to address family law disputes. The data offer some suggestions and partial answers. Lawyers said that litigation is more useful for high-conflict disputes than other dispute resolution processes, that litigation is useful when there is a risk to an adult, a child or property and that litigation is more useful than other processes for dealing with the evidence of mental health experts, financial experts and valuators. Given the sample size and that clients were not contacted directly through this study, there is clearly more work to be done to get a broader picture of lawyers’ and clients’ views, preferences, experiences and costs. However, these and other findings from this new and innovative study provide important insight and evidence for lawyers, policymakers and researchers interested in access to justice and law reform in family law disputes in Canada.
The final report from this study, which also includes a social return on investment (SROI) analysis and recommendations for further research, is available from the CRILF website, at <http://www.crilf.ca/publications.htm>, and the CFCJ website, at <http://www.cfcj-fcjc.org/sites/default/files//docs/Cost-Implication-of-Family-Law-Disputes.pdf>.