Arbitration is a form of alternative dispute resolution (ADR) in which the parties to a dispute seek a solution outside the court system. In ADR, the parties refer the matter to one or more persons known as arbitrators, whose decision is legally binding.
In Ontario, arbitration in family law matters is governed under two statutes: the Family Law Act* and the Arbitration Act.+ If a conflict arises between the two pieces of legislation, the Family Law Act prevails.^
Under the law, a family law arbitration must be conducted exclusively in accordance with the laws of Ontario or another jurisdiction, or it will not be recognized as legally binding.%&
The arbitrators conducting family arbitration must have received training approved by the Attorney General. Among their responsibilities is separate screening for power imbalance and domestic violence.@
The arbitrators may determine the procedure of the arbitration as they see fit, in accordance with the legislation. The arbitration may be done in writing or orally.
Although a family arbitration is legally binding, the law specifically provides that, with the permission of the court, a party may appeal a family arbitration award on a question of law. The court may set aside an arbitration award on several grounds.** For example, the court may set an award aside because of procedural flaws.
Personally, I am not a big fan of family law arbitration. Often the parties end up in court anyway, by way of appeal. Although most appeals are dismissed, the process leads to significantly increased costs and bitterness between the parties.
*R.S.O. 1990, c. F3
+S.O. 1997, c. 17
^Family Law Act, supra, s. 59.1
& Arbitration Act, supra, s. 32(4)
@ Family Arbitration, O. Reg. 134/07, ss. 2, 3
** Arbitration Act, supra, s. 46
This blog is provided for educational purposes and for your reference. It is not intended as legal advice and should not be regarded as such. The law may have changed since the publication of this article.