How Do I Start Arbitration with My Spouse?

From Clicklaw Wikibooks

Pick the right moment

You can't force your ex to go to arbitration with you, you can only do it with their agreement. Your ex isn't likely to agree to arbitration if they are still pissed off about a recent argument or still resentful about the end of the relationship.

When you've got the right moment, suggesting arbitration can be as simple as calling your ex up and inviting them out for a cup of coffee at the local Tim Hortons:

"Hey look, I think it's time that we sat down and started to talk about things. I know you're still a bit upset about everything, but we really need to make a few decisions and I don't think we're going to be able to do this on our own. I've asked my friend Simeng what happened with her and Robert, and she said that they resolved everything through arbitration."

At this point, it's all about getting your ex to try arbitration, and it's your job to sell the idea. Here are some reasons why arbitration is a really, really good idea:

  • arbitration is private, there is no court file and the hearing is not open to the public,
  • you can arbitrate with the help of lawyers or on your own,
  • you can pick an arbitrator who's an expert in the issues that are the most challenging for your family,
  • you can get the help of professionals like child psychologists, business valuators, and tax planners,
  • with input of the arbitrator, you can design the rules that will apply to your hearing,
  • with input of the arbitrator, you can decide on the amount of disclosure that will be needed for your hearing,
  • the arbitrator's decision is just as final and just as binding as a court award,
  • you can schedule the hearing date as soon as you want, where you want, and
  • with faster hearings and a more efficient process to get there, arbitration is cheaper than litigation.

Going to trial will cost a minimum of $15,000 in lawyer's fees for a two- or three-day trial. Most family law trials are one or two weeks long, and this figure ignores the costs of all the other things that have to happen before you walk into the courtroom on day one!

If this doesn't get your ex to agree to try arbitration, tell them to ask separated friends, family members and co-workers how much it cost for their court proceedings and how long it took to go from start to finish.

Hire an arbitrator

Now that your ex has agreed to try arbitration, strike while the iron is hot: find an arbitrator and book a pre-arbitration meeting immediately.

Before hiring an arbitrator, make sure you've looked into their background to find out if they have special training in arbitration.

Lawyers who have training and are accredited to arbitrate by the Law Society are called family law arbitrators, and they will usually advertise themselves as such.

When picking an arbitrator, go to the website of a professional association like the Family Law Arbitrators Group. Associations like this will have a list of their members, the training and experience they require for membership and a short biography of each member.

If that doesn't work, call a family law lawyer. Most family law lawyers will know one or two arbitrators they can recommend, and will be happy to give you the arbitrators' names and phone numbers.

For more information

You can find more information about arbitration in the chapter Resolving Family Law Problems out of Court.


This information applies to British Columbia, Canada. Last reviewed for legal accuracy by Gayle Raphanel, July 5, 2017.



Creativecommonssmall.png JP Boyd on Family Law © John-Paul Boyd and Courthouse Libraries BC is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.5 Canada Licence.


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