At Kelly + Kelly Lawyers we pay particular attention to assessing early on how a file is best resolved, whether through negotiations, referrals to custody/access assessors, mediation or arbitration. Proceeding to Family Court is the option of last resort. The different processes we use to solve family law issues are explained below.

Let Caroline and Cedar put their knowledge and experience to work for you and your family.

Lawyer Assisted Negotiations

Lawyer-assisted negotiations can help you and your former partner to reach a compromise or agreement about the issues arising from your separation and divorce.

The types of agreements (also known as domestic contracts) that both Caroline and Cedar can assist you in negotiating include:

  • parenting plans
  • cohabitation agreements
  • marriage contracts
  • separation agreements

We recommend that each party to an agreement receive legal advice and representation before signing a domestic contract. Our firm cannot act for more than one party to an agreement.


Mediation is a voluntary process whereby you and your former partner work with a neutral third party (a mediator) to help you identify, discuss, and resolve issues relating to the breakdown of your relationship. Issues that can be mediated include parenting responsibilities, child support, spousal support, and ownership/division of property.

Mediation can be client-based (meaning only you and your former partner attend with the mediator) or lawyer assisted (meaning with both you, your former partner and each of your lawyers are present during mediation).

A mediator does not make decisions for you. They can give you information about the law but not legal advice. While the mediator will help you arrive at an agreement, in the end you and your former partner make the decisions.

People with a wide variety of backgrounds offer mediation services. Caroline Kelly is a lawyer with 27 years of courtroom experience. She now acts as a mediator on a full range of family law issues. She believes that it is crucial for mediators to have a mastery of the law relating to the issues before them.

Caroline also understands the value of a mediator preparing clear and comprehensive agreements setting out what has been agreed upon during mediation. Domestic contracts that are not properly negotiated or drafted frequently end up being challenged in a courtroom.  Caroline understands that clients need to leave the mediation process confident that their settlement agreements comply with the law, will stand the test of time, and will allow them to proceed with a divorce application if they want to do so.

Mediation is not appropriate for everyone. If there has been family violence and there are ongoing safety concerns, it may not be possible for you and your former partner to mediate safely and effectively. Shuttle mediation will then be explored as an alternative. Shuttle mediation is a type of mediation where you and your former partner are not in the same room. The mediator speaks to one person, and then to the other person separately.

With the assistance of technology, Caroline is presently carrying out mediations by videoconference. This allows her to act regardless of whether you and partner are currently living in the same area, whether you are close to her offices, or where public health concerns make it unsafe to conduct mediations in-person.

Learn more about the steps involved in mediation.


If you and your former partner cannot come to an agreement or are only able to agree on certain issues, you may need someone else to make the decision for you.

Arbitration is one way that allows you to have someone else make the decision for you.

In arbitration, you and your former partner choose a neutral person—an arbitrator—to decide the legal issues for you.

Arbitration is a private process and you and your former partner are responsible for paying the arbitrator, as well as your own legal advisers. Arbitration tends to be a more informal process than a court trial.

Caroline has completed the training required by the Ministry of the Attorney General of Ontario to be a family law arbitrator.

Caroline accommodates requests by arbitration clients for early hearing dates. After the arbitration hearing is complete, her written decisions are delivered promptly.

Learn more about the advantages of a family arbitration process.

When You Need to Go to Court

You can also go to court if you and your former partner cannot agree on some or all of your family law issues. Going to court means that you’re asking a judge to decide what outcomes are appropriate for you and your family.

Both Caroline Kelly and Cedar Swartz-Fisher provide advice and representation for clients who need to take their cases to court. Services on a limited retainer basis are also available in selected cases.

There are many steps in the court process, and each step in the process can take a long time and involve significant expense.

Lawyer-assisted negotiations and litigation are not mutually exclusive. Even if you go to Court, Caroline and Cedar will work to help you negotiate a resolution to some or all of your issues outside of a courtroom. The Court will also encourage you and your former partner to come to an agreement on as many issues as possible. At the settlement conference a judge gives you and your former partner options about how some or all of the issues can be settled, without going further in the court process.

If you cannot settle your dispute, a judge will hold a hearing or a trial, and then make a court order. You must do what the court order says.

Let us put our knowledge and experience to work for you and your family.

Let us help you.