Options to resolve family law issues

Unless your issues are urgent, it is always a good idea to do some research on the options available to you to resolve your family law issues.

Negotiating an agreement

Negotiating an agreement is where you and the other party have discussions to try to resolve your family law issues and set them out in a written agreement.


Meditation is where you and the other party privately meet with a trained, neutral third party who tries to help you communicate to reach a voluntary agreement to resolve your family law issues. Unlike a lawyer or a judge, the mediator will not give legal advice or make any decisions about the case for you.

Learn more about mediation, including on-site and off-site services.

Collaborative family law

Collaborative family law is where you, the other party, and your lawyers agree not to go to court, and instead work together to cooperatively resolve your family law issues. If you can’t come to an agreement, you can still go to court afterward, but you will need to hire a different lawyer to guide you through the court process.

The Ontario Association of Collaborative Professionals maintains a list of legal professionals who practice collaborative family law in Ontario.


Arbitration is where you and the other party present your case to a neutral third party called an arbitrator, who makes a final decision called a family arbitration award. You must both follow the final arbitration award, which can be enforced by the court.

Learn more about family arbitration.

Going to court

Going to court is where a judge makes decisions about your family law issues. You must follow the judge’s orders, even if you don’t agree with them. A judge’s order has legal force and effect, meaning there are serious legal consequences for not complying with the terms of an order.

Not all of these options are appropriate in every circumstance. For example, mediation may not be appropriate where there is violence or abuse in the family relationships. In these circumstances, the best option may be going to court to have a judge decide the issues.