If you and your partner can’t agree on how to resolve some or all of your family matters, you can have them decided by an arbitrator who acts like a judge. The arbitrator listens to the position of each party and makes a decision that is legally binding. Both of you must agree to have the arbitration. Some arbitrators do mediation before arbitration.

Family law arbitrators

Before a family law arbitrator begins to listen to each side of the story, everyone must agree on:

  • what the issues are,
  • what rules will apply to make sure each of you has the opportunity to be heard,
  • financial disclosure ,
  • whether experts are needed, and
  • how the arbitrator will be paid.

The family law arbitrator will then make a written decision that is legally binding and enforceable by the court. Usually, parties are represented by their own lawyers during arbitration.

For more information and to find a family law arbitrator, contact the BC Arbitration and Mediation Institute. You’ll have to ask for an arbitrator who handles family issues. The family law arbitrator must be accredited with the Law Society of BC. You can also use Access Pro Bono's Lawyer Referral Service.


Some family law arbitrators will do mediation with the two parties before arbitration. You and your partner would need to discuss with the arbitrator what the process will be. The advantage is that if you can’t resolve your issues with mediation, you can choose to continue with the same person for arbitration.

To find an mediator-arbitrator, contact the BC Arbitration and Mediation Institute, or Access Pro Bono's Lawyer Referral Service, or MediateBC. You will have to ask for an arbitrator who handles family issues and confirm that they will do both mediation and arbitration with you.

Note that this is still a new legal option in BC. MediateBC is currently developing practice standards.

Parenting coordinators

Parenting coordinators help you and your separated partner settle parenting disagreements about what was agreed to in a separation agreement or was set out in a [define:court order]. The coordinator will first try to resolve the conflict through mediation, and if there’s no agreement, will make a neutral decision (called a determination) about the issue. This determination is legally binding and enforceable by the court.

Parenting coordinators must be qualified under the Family Law Act and can be experienced family law lawyers, counsellors, social workers, family therapists, or psychologists who have special training in mediating and arbitrating parenting disputes.

You and the other parent can agree to have a parenting coordinator for up to two years to help with issues as they come up, such as parenting time, discipline, education, and other day-to-day issues. The court may also appoint a parent coordinator. For more information and to find a parenting coordinator, see the BC Parenting Coordinators Roster Society website.