Alberta courts not always efficient for family law disputes

On behalf of Gary Kirk of Kirk Montoute Dawson LLP posted in Family Law on Friday, May 5, 2017.

An unfortunate reality for many divided families is that Agreements, particularly with respect to parenting, do not always reflect the dynamic nature of parenting as children grow older. Many divorced or separated parents find themselves arguing over issues like custody and access long after making agreements in court or collaboratively. Situations change, and sometimes what was once a workable arrangement may no longer be suitable to one party. While the obvious place to settle a family law dispute may seem to be in an Alberta courtroom, it may not be the most efficient route to take.

Many family law issues can be brought before a judge. Common examples include custody arrangements, spousal or child support, and applications for mobility. Unfortunately, so many people opt for this route that a backlog of cases has swamped the courts of the province. The situation became so bad that several judges volunteered their time to hear cases during the spring.

Before the judges stepped in, the wait time in Calgary for a half-day hearing was an astonishing 52 weeks. In Edmonton, 30 weeks was the reported wait time. For trials of five days or less, Calgary had a lead time of 46 weeks and Edmonton was a full year. Those closest to the situation blame a population surge that was not met with a corresponding increase in the number of judges in the province.

Although it may be hoped that the trouble is alleviated, it could be some time before the backlog is worked through. For this and many other reasons, choosing a form of alternative dispute resolution, and avoiding the courts entirely, may be a better option for many families. A lawyer familiar with ADR techniques in Alberta can advise a client if such an approach is right for his or her family law dispute. 

Source: Calgary Sun, “Family court delays have judges volunteering their time”, Meghan Potkins, April 18, 2017

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