A family arbitrator is a neutral third party who helps Ontarians trying to solve their family law issues. The arbitrator hears each side’s issues and makes a final decision called a family arbitration award.

Learn more about family arbitration and the role of the arbitrator.

In Ontario, family arbitrators must complete training approved by the Attorney General. Arbitration awards made by family arbitrators who have not completed the required training are not enforceable by the court.

Required training

Screening for domestic violence and power imbalances

In family law, screening is used to decide if the method being used to solve the family law conflict will be effective, fair and safe for both parties and any children involved.

As a family arbitrator, you are obligated to ensure the parties in the case have been screened for domestic violence and power imbalances before you start the arbitration process.

Learn about the screening process.

You need to complete a training program of at least 14 hours (within one week) to learn about screening parties for domestic violence and power imbalances. You should ensure your training covers most of or all the following elements:

  • the nature and extent of domestic violence
  • the nature of the arbitration process and how it differs from mediation or direct negotiations
  • the roles and responsibilities of the screener
  • how to screen for abuse and power imbalance
  • the use of one or more tools for screening, including in an arbitration context
  • the form and content of screening reports
  • the limitations of screening techniques
  • the effects on children who are exposed to domestic violence
  • how the best interests of the child are affected by domestic violence
  • how to identify concerns of people from diverse cultures
  • how to determine when arbitration is or isn’t appropriate, and how to develop options for using arbitration where it would be appropriate to do so with safeguards in place
  • how to adapt parenting plans when domestic violence is present
  • knowledge of community resources available to help with domestic violence

Together with a discussion of the relevance and how they apply to the arbitration process, your training should include a review of one or more of the following screening “tools” or related or equivalent tools for screening:

  • Ellis and Stuckless, Domestic Violence Evaluation (DOVE) (2006)
  • Michigan Supreme Court, Domestic Violence and Child Abuse/Neglect - Screening for Domestic Relations Mediation (2006)
  • Linda Girdner, Conflict Assessment Protocol (CAP): Screening for spouse abuse in divorce mediation (1990)
  • Paul Charbonneau, Maine Court Dispute Resolution Service: Screening for Domestic Violence and Abuse in Domestic Relations Mediation: Screening and Assessment Guidelines (1997)
  • Peter Jaffe, Children of Domestic Violence: Special Challenges in Custody and Visitation Dispute Resolution (1996)
  • Erickson and McKnight, Mediating spousal abuse divorces

Your training must follow the principles outlined in the Ontario Association for Family Mediation’s Policy on Domestic Violence and Power Imbalances, adjusted for arbitration.

If you are a professional who screens parties contemplating family arbitration for domestic violence and power imbalances, you are not required to have a specific background or training. There is no specific legal requirement for the form and content of the screening report to be delivered.

However, having similar training and using similar tools as arbitrators is ideal. Knowing how the screening tools are used in the arbitration process will allow you to help the parties being screened and the arbitrator who will be looking at your reports.

Ontario family law training

All family law arbitrators who are not a part of the Ontario Bar, or another Canadian bar, must complete 30 hours of training about Ontario family law. You do not need to complete this training all at once, but there are certain areas of family law that would be best to learn together.

You should receive your training from a source recognized by the Ministry of the Attorney General. The ministry recognizes the following as a source of such training:

  • any accredited Canadian law school
  • any accredited Ontario community college

The ministry also recognizes private courses offered by:

You can adjust your training to reflect the area of family law you anticipate working in, but you should understand the main areas of family law.

General family law training may help you recognize family related issues that may come up in a different case or are outside of your specialty. If you want to expand the area of family law you specialize in, you need to ensure you have the appropriate training in the new areas.

If you are a member of the Ontario Bar who arbitrates family disputes, you should ensure you are familiar with family law to fulfil your professional obligation to provide services competently.

Your training must have been done within five years of an arbitration where you certified that you were trained, unless you have done on average at least two family arbitrations per year, during those five years.

Ongoing training

As a family arbitrator, you will also need to take ongoing training of 10 hours over any two-year period. Five of these hours must be related to domestic violence or power imbalance issues.

Suggested other training for non-legal professionals

If you are not working in the legal field, you may also want to take some courses on how to be an arbitrator.

These types of courses may be offered by:

  • academic institutions, such as universities and community colleges
  • dispute resolution organizations
  • private instructors

These courses will:

  • make it easier to arbitrate a case
  • increase the chances that the arbitration will be correct and helpful to the parties
  • reduce the risk that the award will be set aside or overturned on appeal
  • help attract business as parties may ask for your credentials when choosing an arbitrator
  • help you avoid serious mistakes that may cause claims for negligence