I’ve been practicing Family Law now for 37 years and during that time there has been a concerted effort made by lawyers, judges and politicians to find ways to help people separate in a less adversarial way.
Thirty years ago the first step was to appear before a judge to get an interim order that set out who would pay for what and where the children would be until a trial which was usually one to two years later. All of this was extremely stressful, costly and adversarial.
In order to slow this process down legislation was introduced in 2006 that required spouses to attend a meeting where a judge would act as the mediator and try to help resolve the issues in order to avoid court. This meeting is called a Judicial Case Conference (JCC). If a settlement could not be reached at the JCC then and only then could the spouses proceed to court. JCCs have been a very effective tool and have drastically reduced the number of court applications.
The second change has been the introduction of Mediation whereby spouses resolve their issues with the assistance of a mediator. Now virtually all of my clients attend mediation if a settlement cannot be negotiated and the statistics are that over 90% of all cases now settle at mediation.
The third change has been the introduction of Collaborative Law. Spouses and lawyers sign a contract that they will work together as a team to resolve the issues and if settlement cannot be reached the spouses will retain new lawyers to represent them in court.
Together these three processes have dramatically changed how spouse separate their lives and the change is a very positive one. Court applications and trials are now the exception not the rule and spouses can resolve their issues with much less stress and must less cost.
Deborah A. Todd