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Alberta court backlog means family law disputes have to wait

There are numerous reasons why people might choose to go to court after a divorce or separation. Sometimes situations can change and one party feels it's time to amend an agreement. Perhaps what once seemed like a workable arrangement is no longer meeting the needs of one or both parties. Whatever the case may be, many men and women opt to bring their family law disputes to the courts of Alberta. In fact, so many people have opted for the courts that a logjam of cases has built up.

Family law cases commonly heard in court include child custody and access disputes, issues over spousal or child support, and mobility cases where the custodial parent wishes to move with the children. Typically, cases like these are half-day hearings. So many people have requested hearings that the wait times have become extremely long. In Calgary, some people are waiting up to a year to go before a judge. 

The problem has become so severe that six judges agreed to take on extra hearings on their days off in order to at least partially alleviate the burden. People closely connected to the situation have described it as a crisis and the judges' donated time is merely a temporary measure. The federal government is creating an additional dozen positions for judges in Alberta, but there are already vacancies that need filling.

While it may seem there is no choice but to wait for a chance to see a judge, there are other options for pressing family law issues. Men and women in Alberta can opt to settle their issues out of court through alternative dispute resolution techniques, such as mediation or arbitration. An experienced lawyer can help any individual decide if this may be the right approach, and then guide the client through the process.

Source: CBC News - Calgary, "Calgary judges volunteer time to alleviate backlog in family law cases", Meghan Grant, April 19, 2017

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