Kim Johnson – March 2020
Family breakups are almost always high-stress situations and the current COVID-19 outbreak is adding an unprecedented complication to the process.
While Nova Scotia courts are currently closed to most family law matters, this does not mean your family law matter cannot move forward or even be resolved. The court has always been only one of many options to resolve family law disputes, and most (judges included) agree that the courts should always have been the last resort in resolving family law disputes. Although MDW Law lawyers are experienced litigators for those cases where the court is required, we have always focussed on alternatives that can better meet the needs of a family. During this pandemic we have enhanced our ability to continue, and even increase, this vital work through video technology.
As a result, there are still plenty of things you can do while the courts are on hold:
- Negotiate – You and your ex know more about your circumstances, your family, and your children than anyone else. In most circumstances, if you have children, you are going to have to continue to work together in some manner, whether you like it or not. Now might be the best time to try to work out the best way to do this, especially given everything else seems to be “on hold” for some people. You can exchange proposals by email, discuss the matter on the telephone or video chat.
- Negotiate with help –MDW Law knows not everyone can easily work things out alone. If you have never been through this process before (and even if you have), you may feel lost and confused by all of the information you find on the internet, or the “war stories” you hear from friends or family members. Every family is unique and you may need help finding a unique solution that meets the needs of your family. Our lawyers continue to work throughout this crisis and have the experience needed to help you find solutions for your family. We can give you information and ideas to help you negotiate yourself or we can negotiate on your behalf through these challenging times by way of telephone, email or video meetings.
- Mediate – If both parties agree, then you can work with a mediator to help you reach an agreement that takes the interests of the whole family into account. Many of our MDW Law family lawyers are trained and experienced mediators. Video conferencing enables us to continue mediations despite social distancing restrictions. You can remain in the comfort of your own home while working with the mediator and obtain independent legal advice from your lawyer over the telephone, or even by adding your lawyer to a private room within the video conferencing platform.
- Collaborate – Collaborative Family Law (CFL) is a great option for resolving your differences without going to court and many of our MDW Law family lawyers are trained and experienced in this process. The emphasis of CFL is to achieve a satisfactory settlement in an efficient and cooperative manner. Usually this process takes place primarily by way of 4-way meetings, with both parties and their lawyers sitting down together to work out an agreement. Videoconferencing allows this process to continue seamlessly on-line. If both parties agree, and your ex partner has a collaborative lawyer, MDW Law can help resolve your dispute despite social distancing requirements. For more information on Collaborative Family law, see www.collaborativefamilylawyers.ca
- Virtual Settlement Conferences – Nova Scotia courts have cancelled all settlement conferences for the time being. In court settlement conferences, judges try to help both parties come to a fair resolution, and if the parties do not agree, the judges provide non-binding recommendations based on their knowledge and experience. The partners and counsel at MDW Law have extensive family law knowledge and experience (over 100 years of combined family law experience) and on request can provide private settlement conferences while the courts are closed, including by video conference during the pandemic.
- Arbitrate – If both parties agree, you can hire an arbitrator to resolve matters for you, instead of a judge. When you use private judging (arbitration) the process can be more flexible than the court’s process. Arbitration offers the certainty and finality of a court process, but with greater speed and much more privacy. Senior counsel and partners at MDW Law are ready to act as arbitrators during COVID-19 and can design a process by video conferencing that meets the needs of all involved, if both parties and their lawyers agree.
While the pandemic is new to all of us, MDW Law lawyers have lots of experience navigating complicating factors and we are already adapting to this one. Even though we are working remotely, we continue to provide a full range of services to people who need fast, effective and efficient resolutions. Contact us at 902.422.5881 or firstname.lastname@example.org to explore which of these options may be best for you during COVID-19.