Vaughan Divorce Trial Lawyers
Most divorce cases in Ontario are resolved without the need for a trial. However, some family law disputes cannot be solved using alternative dispute resolution methods or are simply better suited for courtroom litigation. A trial can be helpful in cases involving a high level of family conflict, novel legal questions or principles, or where a party may not be expected to cooperate without a formal court order.
GDH Family Law understands that the idea of a trial can create significant anxiety for our clients. We create comprehensive legal strategies that prepare for litigation while still working towards an early resolution. By developing solutions tailored to the unique circumstances of your case, we ensure you remain positioned for success in the event of a trial.
The Trial Process
All divorce trials generally follow the same procedure, although the steps are influenced by each case’s unique facts and evidentiary issues. The basic steps are as follows:
- The parties must attend a number of conferences before a judge (who is not the trial judge) to ensure the case is ready for trial. These conferences also explore possible settlements for some or all of the parties’ issues. Documentary evidence, such as the parties’ financial information, is filed with the court before each conference.
- Motions may be required before the trial to address any matters needing an immediate resolution (for example, interim parenting arrangements or support payments). These motions often result in a temporary order that will remain in place until the final determination at trial.
- Before the start of the trial, the parties will address any lingering procedural or evidentiary issues. The parties may file additional documentary evidence and identify which facts are not in dispute. This helps streamline the trial process and can reduce the number of witnesses required.
- The parties’ lawyers each provide an opening statement that sets out their interpretation of the facts and legal arguments.
- The parties and their witnesses testify (direct examination). They are also subject to cross-examination by the opposing party’s counsel.
- The parties’ lawyers make a closing argument reviewing the testimonial and documentary evidence. They also set out their legal argument with reference to applicable case law, which has been exchanged between the parties and filed with the court before the trial.
- After hearing both sides’ closing arguments, the trial judge will make their decision. Although the judge may tell the parties their decision at the end of the trial, they will “reserve” their decision in most cases. This means the judge takes some time after the trial to review the law and evidence before making a written decision. The decision includes an overview of the facts and law and sets out the reasons behind the judge’s ruling. The parties can then consult with their legal counsel to determine whether they can or should appeal.
Alternative Dispute Resolution
Canada’s Divorce Act requires married spouses to try to resolve their family law disputes using alternative dispute resolution methods before resorting to a trial. This requirement is also contained in Ontario’s Family Law Act, which applies to both common law spouses and married couples, as well as the Children’s Law Reform Act.
Alternative dispute resolution methods include negotiation, mediation, and family arbitration. These processes are less formal than a trial and offer more privacy than traditional court proceedings, which are often open to the public. Additionally, spouses may avoid unnecessary costs and delays by settling their issues through alternative dispute resolution. Working collaboratively to solve problems can help separated parents maintain a respectful co-parenting relationship while shielding their children from family conflict.
The Effect of Settlement Offers on Legal Costs
At the end of a trial, the judge may review any written settlement offers exchanged by the parties between their separation and trial. If a party declined a reasonable settlement offer and received the same amount or less at trial than what was previously offered, they may be ordered to pay some of the other party’s legal costs. This compensates the offering party for the time and cost of an unnecessary trial and encourages settlement.
Family Disputes Best Suited for Trial
While alternative dispute resolution is beneficial for many cases, some matters are better handled through a trial. Litigation is often the best way to proceed in cases where a spouse’s conduct requires urgent intervention. For example, issues relating to child protection or abduction, or the depletion or hiding of family assets, require the formality and immediate enforceability of a court order. Alternative dispute resolution processes may also be inappropriate for couples with a history of family violence or a high level of conflict.
The Benefit of Proactive Trial Preparation
Successful preparation starts at the outset of a family law matter, well before any court date has been set. Negotiation and mediation offer an opportunity to gain insight into the other party’s case. Thorough preparation of your case not only strengthens your position in negotiations but also helps identify evidentiary issues and legal challenges that may arise at a trial.
GDH Family Law ensures your legal strategy optimizes your chances for success if your matter proceeds to trial. We ensure every step of your divorce, including financial disclosure, case conferences, and alternative dispute resolution processes, are used to refine and tailor your case for trial.
Contact GDH Family Law in Vaughan for Divorce Trial Representation
GDH Family Law understands how daunting the trial process can be, particularly considering the emotional nature of divorce. By meticulously preparing for settlement negotiations, pre-trial motions, or alternative dispute resolution processes, we can anticipate potential challenges in the event of a trial. Our experienced family lawyers are skilled advocates and will passionately represent your rights in court.
GDH Family Law is located 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 divorce, call 416-535-6944 or reach out online.