Due to the significant health concerns caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, the Court of Queen’s Bench for Saskatchewan published a Directive and Advisory, dated March 19, 2020 (the “Directive”) which restricts family law applications to “urgent” and “emergency” matters.
What’s In Place?
Effective March 19, 2020 all previously scheduled Pre-trial Conferences, Trials, and family law applications were adjourned. Rescheduling of applications is currently expected to occur in June, 2020. Rescheduling of Pre-trial Conferences and Trials will occur when the Court returns to its normal operation.
Common types of family law applications include requests for orders relating to interim decision making for children, interim parenting schedules, interim spousal support and child support, dealing with specific limited property issues, as well as many other issues which arise on relationship breakdown.
There are very specific exceptions in the Directive wherein applications will continue to be heard via teleconference calls; these include child protection applications and family law applications which the Court considers to be “urgent” or “emergency”. The Directive provides the following insight into what may be considered urgent or an emergency:
- Applications for urgent relief relative to the safety of a child or parent. This shall include applications for restraining orders, non-contact orders, and exclusive possession of the family home orders;
- Urgent matters involving the safety or well-being of a child including essential medical decisions or issues relating to the wrongful removal or retention of a child;
- Applications related to dire circumstances of financial need including the preservation of existing family property.
The Court will make a case-by-case determination as to whether an application meets the “urgent” threshold. It is expected that the Court will implement a high threshold as to what constitutes an urgent matter. Family law lawyers (and self-represented litigants) have been urged to exercise good judgment and refrain from submitting applications unless confident the application meets this high threshold.
It should be remembered that while the current situation is an inconvenience, applications to the Court should only be used in the last instance, and only when other forms of dispute resolution have been exhausted. Other forms of dispute resolution are available and should be utilized at this time in order to help Saskatchewan families achieve a principled result when a dispute arises.
What’s Available Now?
Mediation is a form of alternate dispute resolution in which an impartial third party mediator assists people unable to agree on an outcome or outcomes. Mediation focuses on the needs, rights and interests of the parties and encourages compromise. Achieving a result requires the parties to agree.
The mediation process can be focused to achieve temporary resolutions or final resolutions.
McDougall Gauley LLP has one certified mediator, James A. Morrison, Q.C. James practices in the Saskatoon office. Should you have any questions about the mediation services offered, please contact James, or any member of the McDougall Gauley Family Law Practice Team. James’ contact information is:
James A. Morrison, Q.C.
As a result of recent amendments to Saskatchewan legislation, arbitration is now available to resolve family law disputes. Arbitration is a dispute resolution process which allows parties to present their case to a neutral third party, called a Family Law Arbitrator and obtain a timely result, called an Award.
McDougall Gauley LLP has three senior and experienced family law lawyers who are also Family Law Arbitrators, approved by the Saskatchewan Government to conduct arbitrations:
Sherry L. Fitzsimmons, Q.C.
Lindsay A. Hart
Our arbitrators can effectively tailor the arbitration process to meet the current need for timely access to dispute resolution. They are more than happy to discuss what the process involves, how it can be arranged to address the current circumstances relating to COVID-19 including the logistics of conducting the arbitration, and the possibility that the arbitrated award be limited in scope.
Should you have any questions about the arbitration process, please contact any of the above listed Family Law Arbitrators.
Collaborative law is a non-adversarial approach to separation which assists former spouses in navigating their separation. Each party has their own collaboratively trained lawyer and the parties work together to achieve a result which is acceptable to both parties.
Both parties sign a participation agreement which confirms that they are both dedicated to proceeding collaboratively. Under the participation agreement, lawyers are disqualified from representing the parties in the event an agreement is not reached, one party no longer wishes to participate in the process, or they are unable to continue with the collaborative approach and the matter proceeds to Court. Numerous partners within McDougall Gauley LLP who practice Family Law are collaboratively trained lawyers and are certified to represent separated spouses through a collaborative process:
Sherry L. Fitzsimmons, Q.C.
James A. Morrison, Q.C.
Brian M. Banilevic, Q.C.
Foster J. Weisgerber, Q.C.
Lindsay A. Hart
Should you have any questions about the collaborative process or are interested in pursuing this non-adversarial approach to separation, please contact any of the above listed collaboratively trained lawyers to discuss further.
As everyone’s situation is unique, the above is provided to you for information purposes only and does not constitute legal advice. If you or someone you know is dealing with a legal issue pertaining to their family dynamics, please contact a member of the McDougall Gauley LLP Family Law Practice Group.
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