About the Types of Family Justice Services

There are several kinds of family justice services. Provincial and territorial governments provide some of these services. Others are only available from professionals in private practice or in community organizations. Below, you will find examples of how some key services may be able to help you. Not all provinces and territories offer the same services. Use the links above to find out which government services are available in your area. The yellow pages of your phonebook or the Internet may help you find non-government family justice services.

Information and resource centres

Information and resource centres offer free information on family law and on court procedures in your province or territory. As a general rule, employees at these centres do not provide legal advice. However, they may give you forms and guide you through the steps of legal proceedings. They may also refer you to legal and community resources that meet your needs.

Services to help you resolve disputes

All family justice services can help you make decisions and resolve issues by giving you information you need to know. But sometimes, information alone is not enough. There are three ways that couples can resolve disputes without going to court. These are:

  1. mediation;
  2. arbitration; and
  3. collaborative law.

They all work in different ways.

Mediation

A mediator is a neutral third party who may help you and your former partner discuss issues on which you disagree. The mediator does not take sides. The mediator may make suggestions to help you and your former partner communicate better and reach an agreement. However, he or she does not make decisions for you and cannot give you legal advice.

The mediator does not replace a lawyer.

Arbitration

Some provinces and territories allow divorcing and separating couples to resolve disputes through arbitration. In arbitration, you and your former partner each present your side to a neutral person, the arbitrator. You agree that you will let the arbitrator make the decision for both of you. The decision is usually binding. Arbitration is only offered by professionals in private practice. It is not a government service. You and your former partner would be responsible for paying the arbitrator.

Collaborative law

In this process, you and your former partner would each have your own lawyer. The lawyers' job is to help you find solutions that you can both agree on. The lawyers will try to help you reach an agreement without going to court. From the start, these lawyers agree that if this process does not work and you end up going to court, they will not represent you in court.

Services to help your children

Some family justice services are designed to help children as well as their parents cope with a separation or divorce. Key examples of this are legal representation for children, education programs on separation and divorce, and counselling.

Parent education and information

Parent education and information programs are usually run by lawyers or social workers. Often the lawyers and social workers work together to help separating and divorcing parents to:

  • cope with the emotional effects of separation and divorce on themselves and their children;
  • deal with some of the challenges of parenting after divorce or separation;
  • learn techniques for communicating better with each other, resolving disputes and co-parenting.

Some provinces and territories make it mandatory for parents to take part in a parent education program in certain cases.

Services to help you in high-conflict situations

Some family justice services are designed to help in situations where there are concerns about the safety of children, parents and service providers. As a key example of this, employees of some services supervise visits between a parent and a child. Or, they may supervise the transfer of a child from one parent to another when there is a lot of conflict between the parents.

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