Screening for domestic violence and power imbalances

Both people involved in a family arbitration must be interviewed separately by someone trained to recognize and understand symptoms of domestic violence and significant imbalances of decision-making power between spouses. Domestic violence may be psychological as well as physical.

Both people must be screened for domestic violence and power imbalances, even if each person will be represented by a lawyer in the process. The screener determines whether there is anything standing in the way of a person's full participation in family arbitration or whether the arbitrator should impose certain safeguards (such as that the parties should not be alone together) before the arbitration can proceed.

There is no prescribed screening method to be used for family arbitration, although a number of methods currently exist for family mediation that can usually be adapted for family arbitration. The regulation under the Arbitration Act, 1991 requires that each party be screened separately, and that a report from the person who does the screening must be submitted to the arbitrator before the arbitration can begin. The arbitrator does not use this information to decide the issues in the dispute.

A lawyer giving independent legal advice or representing one person in a family arbitration can also screen for domestic violence. Otherwise it will be necessary to find someone with appropriate training.

Social workers, psychologists or other mental health workers who also know about arbitration may also be able to conduct this screening. They can be located through their colleges or professional associations.