Vaughan Divorce Lawyers Advising Clients on Family Law Negotiations & Settlement Offers
Many family law disputes are resolved through settlement negotiations. Negotiating a fair settlement out of court can reduce the parties’ legal costs and help their family move forward with their lives. It can also preserve a respectful relationship between ex-spouses who must stay in contact post-separation or divorce, such as when the parties will share parenting responsibilities for the foreseeable future.
At GDH Family Law, we have dedicated our careers to the practice of family law and understand the benefits of using negotiation to resolve family conflict. Our established communication skills help us collaboratively explore settlement with the opposing party while preserving your legal rights and entitlements. We work to understand your unique circumstances and develop bespoke legal solutions that deliver the best outcome for you and your family.
Statute-Mandated Alternative Dispute Resolution Under Ontario Family Law
Most family law cases in Ontario are resolved without the need for a trial. Both the federal Divorce Act (which applies only to married couples) and Ontario’s Family Law Act require parties to try to resolve their family law disputes through alternative dispute resolution (including negotiation). Spouses do not have to explore alternative dispute resolution where it would be inappropriate to do so, such as in cases involving family violence or an unhealthy power imbalance between the parties.
While some spouses can amicably resolve matters between themselves, they often benefit from the assistance of qualified legal counsel. Experienced family lawyers use their knowledge and communication skills to explore settlement opportunities and ensure their client understands their legal rights and duties. Parties to a family law dispute risk having an agreement declared void by a court if they did not have appropriate legal advice when it was signed.
A family lawyer can also help a party meet their financial disclosure obligations in matters involving the division of family property or claims for support. When both parties provide complete and accurate financial disclosure, the resulting agreement is more likely to withstand judicial scrutiny if the matter is brought to court in the future.
Any agreements reached between the parties should be put into a written contract and properly signed and witnessed in accordance with Ontario’s evidentiary rules. This ensures the agreement can be enforced through the courts if one spouse fails to meet their obligations.
Benefits of Using Negotiation to Resolve Family Law Disputes
Using negotiation to resolve family law conflict has several benefits for separated spouses and their children. Some examples include:
The Parties’ Investment in the Outcome
Spouses are best positioned to understand their family’s needs after a separation. Parties may be more likely to consistently follow the terms of a separation agreement or parenting plan they developed themselves, rather than an order imposed upon them by a judge.
Maintaining Respectful Communication
Negotiating a settlement outside of court also helps maintain a civil relationship between parties who must remain in contact post-separation or divorce. For example, ex-spouses who share parenting responsibilities will need to communicate with each other about their children for years to come.
The Best Interests of Children
Statutory requirements to explore alternative dispute resolution, which are also found in Ontario’s Children’s Law Reform Act, aim to shield children from their parents’ family law conflict. Therefore, it is in a child’s best interests to see their parents set aside their disagreements and create practical solutions to their problems through negotiation.
Availability at Any Stage of a Dispute
Negotiation can be used to explore possible settlement at any stage of a family law matter. The parties can negotiate while their case is in the family law court system and may also use negotiation in conjunction with other alternative dispute resolution methods, such as mediation and arbitration.
Reduced Legal Costs and Delay
When parties can resolve matters early in their separation or divorce process, they avoid the cost and delay of proceeding to a trial. Early resolution also allows the parties to move forward with their lives and focus on helping their children adjust to the new family dynamic.
Settlement Offers & Legal Costs
In an attempt to resolve an outstanding family law dispute, a party may present the other side with a written offer to settle. As a settlement offer cannot be produced as evidence in family court, the parties can freely explore options for resolution without affecting their legal rights or entitlements if the matter later proceeds to court.
Settlement offers can, however, be put into evidence after the main issues have been determined. They can be relevant to a judge’s determination of which party is responsible for legal costs. If a party rejected a reasonable settlement offer and was unsuccessful at trial (or received less than what was offered), a judge may hold them responsible for part of the offering party’s legal costs. This aims to compensate the offering party for being forced to litigate a matter that could have been resolved earlier had the settlement offer been accepted.
By understanding the effect that a written settlement offer may have on their legal costs, spouses may be encouraged to resolve matters between themselves without unnecessarily using court time and resources. It also helps parties avoid the additional conflict and expense of litigation.
Contact GDH Family Law for Representation in Family Law Negotiations
At GDH Family Law, we ensure your interests are preserved during negotiations and create legal solutions tailored to your needs and concerns. Our attentive and responsive team keeps you updated throughout the process so you can make informed decisions about your family law matter. Whether you only need à la carte guidance during settlement discussions or require more comprehensive support, we can help.
Our innovative, boutique family law firm is based in Vaughan and represents clients throughout the surrounding areas, including Maple, Concord, Woodbridge, Markham, Kleinburg, Richmond Hill, Nobleton, Toronto, Newmarket, Aurora, Brampton, Caledon, Mississauga, Etobicoke, North York, Thornhill, and King City. For a free initial consultation on your family law matter, call 416-535-6944 or reach out online.