This page provides definitions of common legal words and phrases used in arbitration, mediation and parenting coordination in family law disputes. For more definitions of legal words and phrases, see the Terminology page in the wikibook JP Boyd on Family Law, published by Clicklaw and Courthouse Libraries BC.

Act:

A written law made by the federal government or a provincial government. Acts are also called “legislation” or “statute law,” or sometimes just “statutes.”

Application:

A party’s request for a direction or interim award in an arbitration proceeding.

Arbitration:

A voluntary out-of-court dispute resolution process in which the parties to a family law dispute agree to be bound by the decision of a neutral and impartial legal professional, an arbitrator, on the legal issues in their dispute.

Arbitration Act:

A provincial statute setting out certain minimum requirements of arbitration proceedings, including the arbitrator’s duty of fairness, and the court’s role in arbitration proceedings, including when arbitral awards can be appealed to the court. The Arbitration Acts change from province to province.

Arbitration agreement:

An agreement between the parties to an arbitration appointing the arbitrator for the proceeding, identifying the legal issues to be resolved and addressing a number of technical and procedural issues, including describing how the arbitrator will be paid, preventing the parties from going back to court to address the legal issues and providing that the arbitration will be private and confidential.

Arbitrator:

A legal professional appointed by the parties to an arbitration to resolve the legal issues in the proceeding.

Argument:

A party’s explanation about how an arbitrator should interpret a particular fact or why the arbitrator should reach a particular decision about the legal issues in an arbitration. An argument may be based on logical reasoning, the law, or both. Arguments may be made orally or in writing.

Award:

The decision of an arbitrator in an arbitration proceeding. An award can be temporary, also called an “interim award,” or it can be final.

Child:

A person under the age of 18 in Alberta or under the age of 19 in British Columbia.

Children’s lawyer:

A lawyer appointed to represent a child in a mediation or an arbitration.

Conference:

A meeting of the arbitrator or mediator, the parties to an arbitration or a mediation and the lawyers for the parties to address technical and procedural issues in the arbitration or mediation, including clarifying the legal issues to be resolved and the process that will be used.

Consent award:

An award that is made by the arbitrator with the agreement of the parties.

Direction:

An order of an arbitrator on a procedural issue in an arbitration requiring the one or both parties to do or not do something in relation to the arbitration process.

Expert:

A person with special knowledge or a skill in a subject entitling the person to provide an opinion on facts related to a legal issue in an arbitration. In family law disputes, experts commonly give evidence about parenting arrangements, the value of property and the tax results of dividing property in a certain way.

Evidence:

Information and documents presented by the parties to an arbitration that tend to establish a fact relevant to the legal issues to be decided. Evidence provided by a witness may be given orally or in writing.

Fact:

The arbitrator’s conclusions about the relevant events in an arbitration, made after hearing and considering the evidence given by the parties in the proceeding and the facts on which the parties are agreed.

Family law dispute:

A dispute about how the legal issues arising from the end of a family relationship should be resolved, which usually includes issues such as how children will be cared for, how decisions about children should be made, whether and how much child support or spousal support should be paid, and how property and debt should be divided.

Final award:

An award that conclusively resolves a legal issue in an arbitration. An arbitration may result in more than one final award; together, the final awards resolve all of the legal issues in the family law dispute.

Hearing:

A meeting of the arbitrator, the parties to an arbitration and the lawyers for the parties in which the parties present their arguments and evidence on the facts and the legal issues in the family law dispute.

Interim award:

A temporary award made in an arbitration proceeding that is intended to last only for a short period or until a final award is made.

Legal issue:

A right or responsibility potentially arising from the end of a family relationship about which the parties do not agree.

Litigation:

An involuntary in-court dispute resolution process in which the parties to a family law dispute are bound by the decision of neutral and impartial legal professional, a judge, on the legal issues in their dispute.

Med-Arb:

A dispute resolution process that uses both mediation and arbitration to resolve the legal issues in a family law dispute, usually by attempting mediation first and moving to arbitration if mediation fails to resolve some or all of the legal issues.

Mediation:

A voluntary out-of-court dispute resolution process in which the parties to a family law dispute work with a neutral and impartial legal professional, a mediator, to try to reach an agreement settling the legal issues in their dispute.

Mediator:

A legal professional appointed by the parties to a mediation to help them reach an agreement the legal issues in the proceeding.

Order:

A direction of an arbitrator in a final award requiring a party to an arbitration proceeding to do or not do something, made as a result of the arbitrator’s decision about the facts and the legal issues in the proceeding.

PARENTING COORDINATION:

A dispute resolution process that uses both mediation and arbitration to help parents implement the terms of a final court order or final agreement dealing with the parenting of a child.

PARENTING COORDINATOR:

A legal professional appointed by the parties or by court order to help parents implement the terms of a final court order or final agreement dealing with the parenting of a child.

Party:

An adult person whose rights and responsibilities are the subject of a family law dispute.

Rules of evidence:

The rules governing how evidence may be presented in an arbitration proceeding and the weight the arbitrator should give to that evidence. The rules of evidence usually more flexible in arbitration proceedings than they are in litigation proceedings.

Rules of procedure:

The formal, written rules that govern the management of an arbitration proceeding, including how the proceeding is started, how applications are made, how evidence is presented and how awards are made.

Settlement:

An agreement of the parties resolving one or more of the legal issues in a family law dispute.

Statement of agreed facts:

A written summary of the relevant facts in a family law dispute on which the parties agree.

UN Convention on the Rights of the Child:

An international convention, signed by every country in the world except the United States of America, giving children a number of civil and human rights, including the right to have their wishes heard in legal proceedings affecting their interests.

Waive:

A party’s voluntary surrender of a right or a claim, such as the ability of a party to go to court about a legal issue being resolved through arbitration.

Witness:

A person, including a party and an expert, who provides oral or written evidence in an arbitration.

Written statement:

The evidence of a witness given in writing in an arbitration, also known as an “affidavit.”