The Time Has Come: Family Law Arbitration in BC (Part 2)

Why would a couple choose arbitration over litigation? The advantages of family law arbitration include:

1. Privacy

This is considered one of the major advantages of arbitration over litigation. While the contents of a family law file cannot be accessed by the general public, if your case ends up in court, the Reasons for Judgment in your case will be available on the internet for all to see. If you google “BC Superior Courts” you too can read all about your neighbour’s and friend’s divorces, the good, the bad and unfortunately, the ugly.

2. Efficiency and Convenience

Frequently forgotten by lawyers and court officials is the amount of time it takes for a litigant to prepare for a court hearing and the attendant court hearing hours. Many clients have complained that their divorce litigation takes up more of their time than their 9 to 5 job. As well, most people work for a living and courts are only available in the daytime. Arbitration provided parties with more flexible hours, including evenings and weekends.

3. Less Intimidating Environment

While lawyers are comfortable in a courtroom setting, the courthouse is an intimidating place for most people. Arbitration can be conducted in a less formal setting. Professor George Walker in his review of North Carolina’s family law arbitration process, which is heralded as one of the best in North America, remarked that an arbitration could even be held at a “North Carolina resort, if the parties are willing to bear the cost.”

4. More Geographically Convenient

Many people live some distance from a courthouse and even those who live in close proximity to court facilities must deal with downtown traffic and expensive parking. With arbitration, annoyances like this can be avoided.

5. Less Cost

Cost is a primary concern in family law matters. A significant cost factor in favour of arbitration is the elimination of “waiting time”. In situations where a court case may be scheduled for one or two hours, the rule is that the lawyers are heard by the court in accordance with their time estimates. What that means is that a 15 minute hearing goes first, then the half hour hearings are heard, and finally, hours later, a case set for 1 hour will be heard. That means that your lawyer will be siting around the court house waiting to present his or her case. The hours tick away at your lawyer’s hourly billing rate. Very unproductive and very expensive.

Another frustration of the court system is a scheduled trial that cannot proceed because of a shortage of judges. The expense of preparing for trial is a substantial part of the expense of litigation. Where a trial is adjourned for lack of a judge or a courtroom, the litigant’s costs are doubled when trial preparation must be begin again for the second trial.

6. Less Delay

The wheels of justice grind slowly and nowhere is that resented more than in family law cases. Decisions about money or children are crucial in a litigant’s life. After waiting months or even a year for a hearing date in court, to be compelled to wait up to six months for the judge’s decision to be released, is another one of the frailties of the court system.

In arbitration, results are usually available within 30 days.

As you can see there are many good reasons to stay out of a courtroom and resolve matters privately.
The next segment of this series will review the rules and procedures for family law arbitrators.

Lawdiva aka Georgialee Lang



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