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Family Dispute Resolution Process: The Best Interests of the Child

When you separate or divorce, there are many different choices for your family dispute resolution process. Negotiation, mediation, and litigation are the key legal approaches. When family law matters include children, the court always considers the best interest of the child when deciding how disputes should be resolved. And while family disputes can be settled without the help of a lawyer, family law can be confusing. It is important to understand the basic principles, and know when you might need to consult or engage a lawyer.

Why Might You Need a Family Dispute Resolution Process?

When parents separate or divorce, parenting time and decision-making responsibility is set out in a parenting plan. A good parenting agreement sets out the time children will spend with each parent, how decisions will be made, your foundational parenting principles, decision-making responsibility, communication and how you plan to revise the agreement.

Parents want to protect their kids, but they often have different ideas of what’s best for their children. When they cannot agree, their disputes may need to be settled with a court order. That’s where a family dispute resolution process comes into play.

Disputes can arise, for example, when one parent wishes the child to change schools to be closer to their home, or attend a better school. This change might also affect the balance of parenting time and responsibilities. Parents may also need to go to court if one parent wishes to move far away, effectively affecting the other parent’s parenting time with  the children.

When any family dispute involves children, decisions should always be made in the “best interests of the child”.

Who Determines “The Best Interests of the Child”?

Whether living together, married, separated, or divorced, parents bear primary responsibility for taking care of their children. A parenting agreement will set out who makes major decisions, whether shared by both parents, or if one parent has primary responsibility. 

If parents cannot agree on the best interests, they may need to engage in a family dispute resolution process, and as a last resort involving the courts.

In Ontario, if parents are married, cases are generally heard in the Ontario Superior Court of Justice and fall under the Federal Divorce Act. If parents are not married or are not pursuing a divorce, the Children’s Law Reform Act of Ontario applies, and the case will generally  be heard in the Ontario Court of Justice

What Factors Are Considered to Determine the Best Interests of the Child?

Regardless of which court presides over the case, the court will consider factors like:

  • The child’s age and care needs.
  • The child’s view of the matter (taking into account their age and maturity level).
  • The child’s relationship with each parent, as well as extended family (siblings, grandparents and others who play a role in the child’s life.
  • Cultural, linguistic, religious heritage.
  • Any history of family conflict or violence
  • History of care and the ability of each person to meet the care needs of the child.

Family Dispute Resolution Process: Your Options

There are a few options to resolve family disputes.

Mediation is an option that allows parties to meet face to face out of court to talk through their issues. A trained mediator will make sure each side gets a say, and can help parents find common ground.

Negotiation is another out-of-court solution. The parties can negotiate in the same room, separate rooms, or even remotely. Typically, both parties are represented by lawyers, or consult with lawyers during the process.

Despite a mutual desire to protect their children, many family disputes will end up in court. In these cases, you will want an experienced family lawyer or family law specialist to support you and help achieve the best outcome for your case. 

Representing yourself in court can be challenging, and involves a lot of time and energy. With the stakes so high, you should find the best family lawyer for your case.

Kelly D. Jordan Family Law Firm – Experience You Can Trust

Kelly D. Jordan and her team of family lawyers have the experience you need to settle your family law disputes in or out of court. Kelly is an experienced family law mediator, negotiator, and litigator. Kelly and her Associates – Emma Katz and Melissa Richa – have a wealth of expertise in family law, and work with you to find creative solutions to your family law problems. Contact us today or start your case online.

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