This content is made possible by our sponsors. Learn more about our OBJ360 content studio here.

Canada’s judge shortage doesn’t have to negatively impact your family – or your business

Family lawyer Sarah Kennedy outlines the benefits of arbitration services

Sarah Kennedy discusses the judge shortage in Canada

A shortage of judges is currently hampering the wheels of justice in Canada. 

And that is particularly bad news in family law. When sensitive cases get mired by court delays, it can cost the people involved a lot on both a professional and personal level. 

That is why the head of Perley-Robertson, Hill & McDougall LLP/s.r.l. family law group Sarah Kennedy is reminding the community that there is another option: arbitration.

“We had a mass exodus of arbitrators in Ottawa recently because the old guard retired en masse,” said Kennedy, who is an accredited arbitrator herself. “Some of us are starting to pick up the baton.”

What is an arbitrator?

Basically an arbitrator is a judge for hire.

It is an option that has always been a critical part of Canada’s legal system, but lately it has been getting more attention due to the judge shortage — Kennedy says Ontario needs to hire about two dozen judges alone to properly fill the provincial gap.

“An arbitrator’s role is to listen to the lawyers present their cases, and then deliver a judgment,” said Kennedy. Records are kept by the arbitrator, and the judgment is delivered to and enforced by the court. 

It is a particularly important option in family law cases due to the sensitive nature of the disputes, and the impact of court delays on families and children. 

How can arbitration help with the judge shortage?

No one wants to need the services of a family lawyer. 

But if you do, ensuring the process goes as smoothly as possible is always the goal. Kennedy says she is hearing frequently from clients they are frustrated being stuck in legal limbo, which helped motivate her to become certified.

Kennedy says the biggest myth about going to court is that it costs less. 

In reality, the costs are about the same. Even though you do not have to pay the judge’s salary, court delays lead to paying more for your lawyer’s time.

That is why Kennedy says the three key benefits of hiring an arbitrator are efficiency, expertise and autonomy.

Settling your dispute more efficiently gives you peace of mind while keeping other expenses in check, like carrying costs for properties that need to be sold.

When it comes to expertise, arbitration allows you to hire someone with specific knowledge and skills. 

Kennedy says Canadian judges are eminently qualified, but your case may be better served by choosing the best arbitrator for you, rather than hoping you get assigned a judge who has the specific qualifications you need.

“Hiring an arbitrator gives you the freedom to choose someone who understands parenting or complex financial matters, for example,” said Kennedy.

When it comes to autonomy, having the ability to jointly select the person who is best suited to settle your dispute offers everyone involved a semblance of control.

For business leaders in particular, arbitration offers the option to keep sensitive financial information about your business confidential.

“When you go to court, anybody can walk in off the street, go up to the counter and say, ‘Can I have a copy of that file?’ And they will get it,” said Kennedy. 

This is a key consideration for someone who owns a privately-held business with partners who understandably want to keep their business’s finances private.

In the end, you can never put a price on peace of mind, she adds. 

If you would like to learn more about family law arbitration contact Sarah Kennedy at Perley-Robertson, Hill & McDougall LLP/s.r.l.