Domestic violence and family arbitration

The government is working to ensure that arbitration remains an option to those who choose to use it, while also strengthening the safeguards around arbitrations to better protect vulnerable parties.

In arbitration, the arbitrator makes a decision based on the law. The decision is taken out of the hands of both sides in the dispute, so that the ability of a victim of violence to stand up to the other party in a negotiation or mediation is not in question.

However, the arbitration process depends on the real consent of both spouses to arbitrate. If there is a question about the genuineness of the consent — if the arbitrator feels that one person is being bullied or does not fully understand his or her rights — then an arbitrator should refuse to continue with the arbitration.

The arbitrator may adopt a procedure that provides safeguards to make the process safer for everybody involved.

The court has what is known as a " parens patriae" power to watch out for the interests of those less able to look out for themselves. This power allows the court to step into a dispute involving children if necessary.

All arbitration awards that involve children must consider the best interests of the child. If not, they will not be enforceable in court.

The Child and Family Services Act, as amended in 2006, makes it an offence for arbitrators not to report suspected cases of domestic violence involving a child to the appropriate child welfare agency or to the police.