Court-assisted ADR ('conciliation')


Settlement conferences

Collaborative Family Law



Negotiation is a direct discussion of differences between parties involved in a family law dispute, in an effort to resolve these issues. Negotiation can take place anywhere - like over the kitchen table, at a coffee shop, or through lawyers. Where children are involved, there will be ongoing negotiation between parents who are both involved in parenting.

You can negotiate with the other party on your own, with assistance from another person, or through a dispute resolution service. No matter the situation, it is always advised that you each speak with a lawyer for advice, and find out what your rights and obligations are. You should get legal advice even if you are not going to be involved in the court process. For information on getting legal advice and finding a lawyer, click here.

Depending on where you live and what court you are dealing with, there may be court-offered services that can help you and the other party reach agreement without going to court. There are also services that you can access on your own, such as Collaborative Family Law and mediation.

Many of these processes are described on this website, and links to these sections can be found below. You can also learn more about these processes by reviewing the online intake module 'What you need to know before starting the family court process.'

Court-assisted ADR

'ADR' stands for 'Assisted Dispute Resolution.' Court-assisted ADR, sometimes called '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 available to them in their court case.

For more information about court-assisted ADR, click here.


Mediation is a type of Assisted Dispute Resolution where a trained, impartial mediator helps the parties to reach agreements about family law issues like custody, parenting arrangements, child support, spousal support, and the division of property.  In mediation, the mediator will assist each person to talk about their needs and issues, and will help the parties negotiate to resolve the issues in appropriate cases. 

There may be a mediation service available through some Family Court sites and through the Supreme Court (Family Division). Check with your local court to see if mediation is available. Usually, you must have an active court application to be referred to mediation through the court.

You can also access mediation services by hiring a private mediator.

For more information about mediation, click here.

The Court of Appeal Mediation Program may be available to those who have filed an appeal of a family court matter. It is voluntary and is available to those who have launched an appeal in a civil or family dispute (not available in criminal appeals). This program is not available to litigants whose matters are being dealt with in the Family Division or Family Court - it is for the Court of Appeal only.

The idea is to give litigants the opportunity to resolve their differences themselves under the guidance of a Judge.

Litigants who cannot afford a lawyer, or who are representing themselves, have access to the services of a lawyer free of charge. The Canadian Bar Association’s Nova Scotia Branch keeps a list of lawyers who have volunteered to provide their services, pro bono (free of charge), for this program.

For more information about this program, click here.

Settlement conferences

A settlement conference is an option for parties who want to negotiate a resolution and make their own decisions about their situation. Its purpose is to determine if the parties can reach agreements on the issues themselves with the help of a judge. It is a voluntary process, which means that the parties must each agree to participate.

For more information about settlement conferences, click here.

Collaborative Family Law

Collaborative Family Law is a way of practising law where lawyers for both parties in a family law matter assist their clients in resolving conflict using cooperative strategies, rather than adversarial techniques and litigation. The emphasis of Collaborative Family Law is to achieve a satisfactory settlement in an efficient, cooperative manner.

If the parties are unable to reach a settlement using this approach, the collaborative lawyers withdraw from the case and the parties are free to retain trial lawyers to pursue their matter in court.

For more information about Collaborative Family Law, please click here.

How do I know if I should take my case to court? What are the alternatives?

The following video was made available through the Public Legal Education and Information Service of New Brunswick and Family Law NB.