Court-based ADR ('Conciliation')

'ADR' stands for 'Assisted Dispute Resolution.' Court-based ADR, or 'conciliation,' is a process where both parties, either in separate meetings or together, meet with a court officer who will help the parties to focus on their situation and consider the appropriate options for settlement available to them in their court case.

This court officer, sometimes called a 'conciliator,' is trained to help the parties by:

  • sorting out what issues need to be resolved

  • making sure they both filed the necessary court documents

  • reducing conflict and helping them to negotiate a settlement of their issues without going to court

  • referring them to appropriate ways to have the case resolved if the matter cannot be settled in court-based ADR.

The court officer cannot provide legal advice to either party, and cannot force the parties to agree on issues.

Court-based ADR ('Assisted Dispute Resolution'), sometimes also called 'conciliation,' is offered at all Family Division sites across Nova Scotia.

If the parties reach an agreement during court-based ADR, the court officer will usually draft (‘write up’) a court order for the parties. There is a 10 day objection period (counted using 'business days') once the order is signed by both of the parties. The parties have this time to look over the draft order, get advice from a lawyer about it, and make sure it works for them.

If neither of the parties objects to the order within this time, the court officer will give the order to a judge for approval. Parties do not have to attend court for this – the judge will review and approve the order in their office.

If an agreement cannot be reached in court-based ADR, the court officer will discuss other options with the parties on how to move forward. This may involve:

  • setting a date for a court hearing

  • referring the parties to another service, like mediation or a settlement conference, or

  • recommending that they each speak to a lawyer for advice.

In the Halifax and Cape Breton courts, court-based ADR is a mandatory process for certain types of applications - often those dealing with child decision-making responsibility and parenting time or contact time, child support, and sometimes spousal support. Court-based ADR is offered in the Family Divisions outside of Halifax and Cape Breton if this service is appropriate and helpful for the parties involved.

You might not attend court-based ADR if:

  • each of you has a lawyer (as negotiation would then be done through your lawyers)

  • if the matter is proceeding on an urgent or emergency basis (these matters usually go to a court hearing)

  • if there is an ongoing divorce matter (a divorce that is not yet finalized).

A good first step in preparing for court-based ADR is to meet with a lawyer to get legal advice. ADR involves negotiating, and it can be hard to negotiate if you don’t know your legal rights and obligations. Click here for information on how to contact a lawyer.

Think about how your case could be settled. When you are dealing with parenting arrangements, remember that the most important thing to consider is what is best for your child.


Review parenting plan options

Review the parenting plan topics for ideas on what kinds of things might go in a court order to deal with parenting issues, like decision-making responsibility and parenting arrangements. This will help get you started on thinking about what you may want to do when you are filling out your court forms (like Parenting Statements) and what you will ask for when you negotiate at the ADR meeting.

Remember that most families do not need a plan that sets out every detail of the parenting arrangement. Think about what will work in your family and for your children.

Generally, parents who are willing to be flexible and who can communicate well with each other need the least amount of detail in their parenting plans or court orders. Those parents who find it hard to talk to one another, and who like for things to be written down and scheduled usually need the most detail in their parenting plans or court orders. There may be other situations where a higher level of detail and planning is needed, like when there is family violence, a long absence from seeing a child, addictions or untreated mental health problems, for example.

You can also find information on parenting arrangements and developing a parenting plan through these helpful resources:

Parenting Plan Tool

This tool is published by the Department of Justice Canada, and provides detailed information on how to develop a parenting plan after separation or divorce.

Making plans: A guide to parenting arrangements after separation or divorce - How to put your children first

This guide is published by the Department of Justice Canada, and provides information about parenting after separation and divorce, including:

  • how to decide on the best parenting arrangement for your children

  • what processes you can use to come to a parenting arrangement

  • what you (parents) may be feeling

  • what your children may be feeling

  • what the best outcome would be for you on each of the issues that need to be resolved

  • what the worst outcome would be on each of these issues

  • what you would be prepared to give up or not give up on each of these issues to reach an agreement                 

  • what the best outcome would be for the other party on each of the issues that need to be resolved

  • what the worst outcome would be for the other party on each of these issues

  • what you think the other party would be prepared to give up or not give up on each of these issues                 

Speak with the court officer if there is information that would be helpful to have that hasn't yet been provided. If you forgot to file something before your ADR meeting, or have copies of a document that you think is important to the case, bring it to the ADR meeting. 

  • parents are the best people to make decisions about their children                 

  • you have the opportunity to create a custom-made agreement for you and your child

  • you keep control over how matters are decided

  • negotiation is often less emotionally draining than going to court

  • negotiation allows you to find simple solutions to your case

  • going through court-based ADR is generally less expensive than other options (like hiring a lawyer to go to court)

  • it can save you lost time from work if you can reach an agreement in one ADR meeting (preparing to go to court can take a lot more time)                 

  • parties are generally happier with the agreement and more likely to follow it if they’ve had a say in how it was reached

  • reaching a negotiated agreement with the other party promotes a long-term working relationship with them

  • this promotes healthier child(ren) and families

  • children are likely to adjust to the separation better if their parents are able to work together and keep conflict low

  • parents set a good example for their children when they have been able to resolve their disputes in a positive way and continue to be able to do so while they parent their children. 

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