A. Kitchen Table
This is when you and the other parent sit down and work out your own private agreement without the help of anyone else. The risk of using this option is that the private agreement is not legally binding if there are problems in the future.
Mediation is a voluntary process. Neither party can be compelled to participate.
The parties meet together with a mediator who remains neutral to them both. The mediator facilitates the meetings by helping the parties communicate, focus on the important issues, and develop and evaluate settlement options. A mediator can be of great assistance when working on a parenting plan.
If the parties reach a settlement on some or all of the issues, the mediator will record the details of the settlement in a memorandum of understanding. For the settlement to be legally binding, that memorandum of understanding will need to be turned into a court order or a legally binding contract with independent legal advice from lawyers.
C. Child Support Resolution (CSR) Program
There is a free program in Edmonton called the Child Support Resolution (CSR) Program to help parents obtain a child support order, or vary an existing order, without bringing a full court application.
A volunteer or staff lawyer meets with both parents to discuss child support, objectively evaluate each parent’s position, and prepare a consent order if the parties reach a settlement.
You need to have started a court action before being allowed to use this program. The parties can be required to attend a CSR meeting.
D. Collaborative Divorce
Collaborative Divorce is a voluntary process, so both parties need to agree to participate.
In Collaborative Divorce, each party has his/her own specially trained lawyer to provide legal advice and realistic advocacy. Unlike the process of a traditional divorce, the parties, their lawyers, and other professionals meet to work together in a cooperative, non-adversarial manner to achieve mutually agreeable settlement that places the needs of children first, preserves family/parenting relationships, and provides the financial resources for each of the spouses to begin separate lives.
If one or both of the parties later decide to go to court, they will need to retain new lawyers.
E. Court Applications or Trial
The court process is adversarial, and the parties do not work together to solve problems.
In a court application or trial, each party presents his/her case to a judge, and leaves it to the judge to decide how to resolve the disputes over property, support, or parenting. The court has complicated rules about evidence and how you are allowed to present your case to the judge.
Most experts agree that it is best for parties to maintain as much control over their own process as they possibly can, and to use less costly ways of solving disputes before falling back on the adversarial court system.
Court can be useful when one parent is completely unreasonable or will not participate in good faith in other dispute resolution processes.