‘The current system is broken’: changes coming to Sask. divorce and separation laws

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New legislation is being introduced in Saskatchewan that will require couples ending their relationship through separation or divorce to try to reconcile their issues before heading to court.

“Our government is recognizing that the current system is broken and that there’s something to finally fix it,” said Kayla DeMars-Krentz, out of court divorce lawyer and president of the Collaborative Professionals of Saskatchewan.

Parties involved a family law dispute will need to certify that they’ve completed one of four processes before a judge makes a decision which are mediation, parent coordination, collaborative service or family arbitration.

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The province’s family system court is backlogged. Currently, couples are waiting upwards of six months for a pre-trial settlement conference. DeMars-Krantz believes this will free up a lot more court resources resulting in quicker resolutions in family court.

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The goal of these changes is to provide couples with quick resolutions without the need of a judge. Through the help of lawyers and early resolution meetings, DeMarz-Krantz highlights that couples are able to make interest-based decisions best suited for them.

It gives the family control over their situation rather than a third party.

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She said it’s about “fulfilling people’s needs, their hopes, listening to their concerns. It’s a very remedial process and it’s much better than having a third party oversee the whole thing and help them make a decision.”

These changes aim to give couples the tools for an amicable separation. Working in divorce court for six years gave DeMarz-Krantz a first-hand look of the emotional toll the court system can have on a family unit, especially the children.

She said “the emotional toll is huge. Even when people ‘win’ there is usually more harm done than good and they don’t end up actually feeling like there is resolve. That they have won as a result of the stress that they’ve endured and the lasting effects on their children.”

READ MORE: Couples going through a divorce seeking out alternatives to court

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She wants to be clear that the goal of these changes is not to stop the divorce or separation itself. Its purpose is to give couples an opportunity to resolve their issues in a quick and amicable way outside the courtroom.

Currently, judges can order people to parent co-ordinators or family arbitrators on a case-by-case basis, the full legislation is not in force yet. They plan to pilot this program in Prince Albert this fall with plans of enforcing it province-wide sometime next year.