Divorce, problems with a neighbour, a dispute with a contractor . . . typical legal problems that are part of life. Often our first reaction is to take the conflict to court. But going to court might not be the best way to solve the problem, and is certainly not the only way. You have a legal duty to consider other ways of solving a conflict, such as negotiation and mediation. This article explains what that duty is and how to choose the best way to solve the conflict.
Think Twice Before Going to Court — It’s Your Duty!
The Code of Civil Procedure is a law that sets out the rules people must follow when they take a civil case to court. The Code states that you must “consider” other ways to solve a problem before going to court, and it refers to these other ways as “private dispute prevention and resolution processes.” They include negotiation, mediation, conciliation and arbitration.
What does it mean to “consider” other ways of solving a problem?
It’s too early to give a clear answer to this question. The courts haven’t had a chance to explain the new rule, which became law on January 1, 2016. And we don’t yet know the punishment judges will give to people who don’t follow this rule.
To “consider” other ways can mean carefully examining all possible ways of solving a legal problem. You have to choose what’s best in the situation, and going to court is not always your best option.
Take time to think carefully. You can come up with all kinds of possibilities that are cheaper and faster than going to court.
In many of the ways for solving conflicts, the people having the problem are directly involved in the process. They are responsible for finding a solution that everyone can live with.
Important! In some cases, going to court will still be your best option.
Questions to Help You Choose
Each method of solving conflicts out of court has its advantages. Find the method that is best for the type of problem you have and that takes everyone’s interests into consideration.
Ask yourself a few questions to help you make the right choice. Here are some examples:
- Will you have to continue seeing the other person once the conflict is over?
If you win everything in a court case against your neighbour, it might be hard to continue living side-by-side with her once the case is over. Solving the conflict without going to court might make it easier to stay on good terms with her
- What will make you feel that justice has been done?
A court’s decision might not seem fair to you. You might feel more satisfied with an apology, a handshake or even an admission of fault. Think carefully about what you really want.
- How much are you willing to spend?
Court cases are expensive. There are cheaper ways to solve a problem.
- Do you want a quick solution?
Some ways of solving a conflict are simpler and faster than going to court.
- Do you think a neutral person would help you find common ground?
Sometimes a neutral person, like a mediator or conciliator, can help you start talking to the person you’re having the conflict with. The person might even be able to suggest solutions.
The Code of Civil Procedure doesn’t force you to use any specific method. The people involved in the conflict make the choice together, in a spirit of cooperation.
This article explains in a general way the law that applies in Quebec. This article is not a legal opinion or legal advice. To find out the specific rules for your situation, consult a lawyer or notary.