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Alternatives to court

Not all disputes need to be resolved in court. Through mediation and other alternatives to court, disagreements can often be resolved more quickly and in a less confrontational manner than in the court system.  As part of the Vancouver Justice Access Centre assessment process, the Civil Resource Coordinator will provide you with a range of options to resolve your problems.  You may also be referred to a Civil Mediation Advisor, who can talk to you about mediation as an alternative to court.


Mediation is used to resolve many kinds of legal disputes in BC. A mediator is a neutral third person who can help you and the other party negotiate a settlement. He or she does not make the decision for you.

For general information about mediation, see the following:

The Dispute Resolution Office’s Guide to Mediation in BC provides an introduction to the mediation process.

The B.C. Mediator Roster Society website provides information about the mediation process, mediation developments, resources, and organizations in BC. Look under the website’s Directory of Mediators to find a qualified civil or family mediator.

Family matters

If you have a family case that you would like to resolve through mediation or other alternatives to court, you may get some help from the following:

The Family Justice website has information about mediation services, including those provided by family justice counsellors, who offer free mediation to families of modest means. The site also provides parents who are separating or divorcing with general information related to child custody, access, guardianship, and child or spousal support. It may be useful for guardians and other family members, such as grandparents, who may be involved in making important decisions about the family and its future.

The Families Change website has information and resources specifically designed to help children and teens understand separation and divorce. It also has resources to help you support them.

The Parenting After Separation Program is a free, three-hour information session for BC parents, guardians, or other family members, such as grandparents, who are dealing with child custody, guardianship, access, and support issues. The session is intended to help parents make careful and informed decisions about their separation and any conflicts that may result from it, and to ensure that these decisions take into account the best interests of their children.

The Family Maintenance Enforcement Program monitors and enforces all maintenance orders and agreements that are filed with it. By filing your orders or agreements with the program, you may avoid going back to court to deal with them.

The Family Law in BC website contains self-help materials to help people resolve family law problems, including self-help kits with all the necessary forms and instructions.

Provincial Court family duty counsel are lawyers paid by LSS to help people with low incomes deal with their family law problems. If you have a family law issue, you may qualify for help from family duty counsel in Provincial or Supreme Court even if you do not qualify for a legal aid lawyer.

Collaborative law

Collaborative law refers to an approach in which the parties and their lawyers make a formal commitment to resolve the disagreement without going to court. The goal of a collaborative lawyer is to settle the case fairly, through constructive problem solving. If the process breaks down, the lawyers must withdraw from the case. For more information, see the Dispute Resolution Office’s Collaborative Law Bulletin or the Collaborative Family Law Group website.

Civil (non-family) matters

After your justice related problem is assessed at the Vancouver Justice Access Centre, you may be referred to a Civil Mediation Advisor. The advisor will ask for more information to determine whether your problem is appropriate for mediation and to provide you with information about the mediation process.

If you choose to use mediation, the advisor will help you to contact the other people in your dispute to see if they will be willing to participate. If everyone agrees, the advisor can help you to find a qualified mediator. Depending on your financial situation you may qualify for three hours of mediation services at no cost. Otherwise, the mediator will provide services at a special rate for the first three hours.

If you already have a case in Supreme Court, the Notice to Mediate process may provide you with the tools you need to achieve an earlier settlement. It allows any party involved in most civil, non-family actions in the Supreme Court to require all the other parties to attend a mediation session.

To find answers to frequently asked questions about the Notice to Mediate process, see Questions and Answers.

Finding a mediator
If you want a mediator and don’t know where to find one, contact the B.C. Mediator Roster Society.

All the mediators on the Society’s rosters meet the Society’s requirements for education, training, and experience. They have provided letters of reference to the Society and are insured.

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