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What are my Options for Resolving Custody Outside of Court in Alberta

Child custody disputes can be among the most challenging aspects of a separation or divorce. They often involve intense emotions and complex legal issues. While going to court is one way to resolve these disputes, it can be time-consuming, expensive, and stressful for all parties involved. Fortunately, there are several alternatives to litigation that can help parents in Alberta resolve custody issues amicably and efficiently. These options can foster better communication, cooperation, and ultimately, decisions that are in the best interests of the child.

What are my Options for Resolving Custody Outside of Court in Alberta


Mediation is a popular method for resolving custody disputes outside of court. In mediation, a neutral third party, known as a mediator, helps the parents discuss and negotiate their custody arrangements. The mediator does not make decisions for the parents but facilitates communication and helps them reach a mutually acceptable agreement.

Benefits of Mediation:

  • Cost-Effective: Mediation is generally less expensive than going to court.
  • Confidential: Unlike court proceedings, which are public, mediation is private and confidential.
  • Control: Parents have more control over the outcome compared to a court decision.
  • Less Adversarial: Mediation promotes cooperation and reduces conflict, which can be beneficial for maintaining a positive co-parenting relationship.

In Alberta, organizations like the Alberta Family Mediation Society offer resources and listings of certified mediators who can assist families in resolving custody disputes.

Collaborative Law

Collaborative law is another effective method for resolving custody issues outside of court. In this process, each parent hires a collaboratively trained lawyer, and both parties agree to work together to reach a settlement without going to court. The collaborative process often involves other professionals, such as child specialists and financial experts, to provide additional support and guidance.

Benefits of Collaborative Law:

  • Team Approach: The collaborative team works together to address all aspects of the custody arrangement.
  • Focus on Interests: The process focuses on the interests and needs of both parents and children, rather than on legal positions.
  • Commitment to Settlement: Both parties and their lawyers sign a participation agreement committing to resolve the issues outside of court.

The Alberta Collaborative Family Law Association provides information on collaborative law and a directory of collaborative professionals.


Arbitration involves a neutral third party, known as an arbitrator, who listens to both parents’ arguments and makes a binding decision on the custody arrangement. Unlike mediation, where the mediator facilitates the discussion, the arbitrator acts like a private judge and has the authority to make decisions.

Benefits of Arbitration:

  • Binding Decision: The arbitrator’s decision is binding and enforceable, similar to a court order.
  • Flexibility: Arbitration can be scheduled more quickly and at times that are convenient for both parties.
  • Expertise: Parents can choose an arbitrator with specific expertise in family law and child custody issues.

While arbitration can be more formal than mediation or collaborative law, it can still provide a faster and more private resolution than going to court.

Parenting Coordination

Parenting coordination is a child-focused dispute resolution process that helps high-conflict parents implement and follow their custody agreements or court orders. A parenting coordinator is a trained professional who assists parents in resolving day-to-day issues related to custody and parenting time.

Benefits of Parenting Coordination:

  • Ongoing Support: Parenting coordinators provide ongoing assistance and help parents navigate conflicts as they arise.
  • Focus on the Child: The process is designed to keep the child’s best interests at the forefront.
  • Conflict Reduction: By providing immediate resolution to disputes, parenting coordination can reduce conflict and improve co-parenting relationships.

The Alberta Family Wellness Initiative offers resources and information about parenting coordination services.

Informal Negotiation

Informal negotiation involves the parents working together directly, or with the help of their lawyers, to reach a custody agreement. This method requires a high level of cooperation and communication between the parents.

Benefits of Informal Negotiation:

  • Direct Control: Parents have direct control over the process and the outcome.
  • Cost Savings: It is often the least expensive option, especially if lawyers are not heavily involved.
  • Flexibility: Parents can tailor the agreement to fit their unique needs and circumstances.

Informal negotiation can be effective for parents who have a relatively amicable relationship and can communicate openly about their children’s needs.

Contact Shim Law Today

Resolving custody disputes outside of court can be a less adversarial, more cost-effective, and quicker way to settle parenting arrangements. Mediation, collaborative law, arbitration, parenting coordination, and informal negotiation are all viable options for parents in Alberta. These methods not only help preserve relationships but also focus on the best interests of the children involved. For parents looking to explore these alternatives, consulting with legal professionals who specialize in family law can provide valuable guidance and support throughout the process.

At Shim Law, we understand the complexities of custody disputes and are committed to helping families find the best resolution for their unique situations. Our team of experienced family law professionals is equipped to guide you through various alternative dispute resolution methods, ensuring that the outcome is in the best interests of your children and your family as a whole. Contact us today to learn more about how we can assist you in resolving custody issues outside of court.  Please contact Shim Law today at 403-476-2011 or book a consultation online to learn more. 

About Shim Law

Shim Law is a multicultural law firm that provides legal services to clients in Calgary and around the world. With lawyers fluent in up to 20 languages, we can provide accurate legal representation regardless of language barriers. Our practice areas include family law, real estate law, and more.

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