The Ontario family court system is set up to allow you and your ex to come to an agreement at several points before your divorce actually goes to court. There are several steps to take when you’re trying to separate from your spouse, including mediation, collaborative family practice, and arbitration, that are all designed to make the divorce process shorter and easier.
However, sometimes an amicable divorce just isn’t possible. When should you decide that it’s time to stop trying to come to an agreement on your own and take the next steps to resolving your disputes?
This question is difficult to answer because it’s different for every couple. However, there usually some reliable indicators that an amicable resolution is not going to happen:
- You’ve tried multiple times to draft a mutually beneficial separation agreement
- The kids are becoming involved in your disputes
- There is or has been domestic violence
- You are being denied access to your children or you are afraid to let your ex have access to them
Do You Need a Lawyer to Go to Family Court?
If you can see that family court is inevitable but you need to keep it affordable, it’s possible to represent yourself in court. However, representing yourself is very time-consuming and you may not have all the knowledge and experience to get the best outcome for yourself and your family. If you decide to go for it, make sure you do your homework in advance. The Ministry of the Attorney General has a wealth of information available as well as several downloadable brochures to help you understand the process. Additionally, you must attend a Mandatory Information Program at your local courthouse or online through Legal Aid.
If you’d like to seek advice before representing yourself in court, some lawyers are willing to help you out with guidance, coaching, or assisting you during your court appearance. Whether you go this route or you decide to retain counsel, be sure to ask plenty of questions to make sure the lawyer you’re meeting with is the best one for you and your particular situation.
What Happens in Family Court in Ontario?
If you haven’t been able to come to an agreement, it’s usually due to a particular issue that the two of you both have strong feelings about and haven’t been able to compromise on. Emotions are running high, and both of you are likely feeling quite a lot of anger and pain. Going to court, as you know, is a serious matter, and it’s very important to be able to remain calm and conduct yourself appropriately.
Your first appearance in family court will be a case conference, not a trial. The goal is to determine what information is missing and to learn how far the two of you are from reaching an agreement. After your initial case conference, you or your ex can put forward a motion to have certain matters put before a judge before going to trial. A divorce case might have several of these conferences before a trial, or it may go straight to a settlement conference without going to trial at all.
How to Decide When Family Court is the Only Option
Coming to a separation agreement with your ex-spouse is a very difficult process. Most times, couples will try just about anything to avoid going to court over family matters. You can try mediation or counselling to resolve your disagreements, but when you’ve attempted everything and you still can’t agree, it’s time to involve the courts.
The key is not to let family law court cases drag on too long. Not only will it be more costly and painful, but a drawn-out divorce process leaves more room for mistakes to be made that you may regret later on. Additionally, there may be time limits on things such as retroactive child support or spousal support.
Is it Possible to Have a Good Relationship After Divorce?
Often, once all of your issues have been resolved, ex-partners can move on and let the anger and resentment fade. This is especially true when children are involved, since you have to work together on parenting whether you’re together or not. In fact, putting the decision in the hands of a judge may even improve your relationship, since it can make the separation and divorce feel less personal and can help you find common ground.
This is the ideal outcome, but don’t be surprised if your relationship with your ex doesn’t improve immediately. After all the dust settles, it’s your responsibility to follow the judge’s ruling and focus on what matters – building a new life free of an unhappy marriage.
Call Galbraith Family Law Before Going to Court
Does it look like family court is your only remaining option? Instead of trying to navigate the system alone, contact Galbraith Family Law. Our Newmarket phone number is (289) 802-2433, and our Barrie number is (705) 302-1102. You can also send a message through our website.