Binding Judicial Dispute Resolution: An Alternative Approach to Resolving Family Law Disputes

Binding Judicial Dispute Resolution (Binding JDR) is a novel initiative introduced in the Superior Court of Justice in May 2021 for the efficient resolution of family law disputes. Binding JDR is currently accessible in the Superior Court of Justice in all of the Central East region, all of the Northwest and Northeast regions, Kitchener, Ottawa, Cornwall, and L’Orignal. For more information regarding this change, contact a family lawyer.

Binding Judicial Dispute Resolution vs Conventional Trials

When Binding Judicial Dispute Resolution is initiated, a concise hearing is held instead of a conventional trial. During the hearing, a judge will first aid the litigants in reaching agreements on their issues by consent; any unresolved matters will then be adjudicated by the judge in a final order within the same hearing. 

The goal is to ensure that by the conclusion of the proceedings, the parties will have a legally binding order. This order could arise from mutual agreement, a directive from the judge, or a hybrid combination of both approaches. Binding JDR thereby serves as an efficient, cost-effective alternative method to resolving family law disputes. It also promotes innovative problem-solving as litigants are encouraged to settle their issues under the guidance of a judge. Such a collaborative and settlement-oriented approach makes the process less adversarial in nature as well.

Participation in the Binding JDR process is entirely voluntary. The process is engaged when the involved parties jointly request it from a judge; a judge must then agree to it, deeming the case suitable for Binding JDR. Parties have the option to request such an order either during a court appearance or by submitting a 14B motion at any juncture within the court proceedings.

Binding JDR Exclusions

Binding JDR is excluded from cases brought under the Child, Youth and Family Services Act (child protection cases), as well as cases related to international child abduction. While other family law cases have the potential to utilize Binding JDR, its applicability is determined by the judge’s discretion. Nonetheless, it is generally not deemed suitable for the following scenarios:

  1. Cases where the exchange of financial disclosure has not taken place prior to the hearing;
  2. Cases necessitating the presence of witnesses beyond the involved parties;
  3. Cases featuring significant credibility concerns that require cross-examination by the opposing party/parties; and
  4. Cases involving one or more vulnerable parties.

Binding JDR is designed to address cases characterized by a limited number of issues that lack intricate legal or factual complexities. The duration allocated to parties for a JDR hearing is notably constrained, typically extending no more than a single day. This time restriction narrows the scope of issues under consideration.

Given that the parties themselves are the primary sources of evidence within the JDR process, cases involving numerous witnesses are unsuitable for this approach. Nonetheless, it is possible to make use of expert reports without the necessity of having the experts testify as witnesses. 

The swiftness of Binding JDR, with the ability to skip certain stages of traditional litigation, makes it more cost effective, as it demands less extensive preparation than a traditional trial and requires fewer court appearances.

Despite its greater flexibility compared to a trial, the judge overseeing a Binding JDR hearing possesses the same authority to issue final orders concerning questions of law, fact, evidence admissibility, and issue resolution.

Who Presides Over a Binding JDR

A Binding JDR hearing may be presided over by a judge who has not been involved in preceding stages of the case. Alternatively, if no objections arise from the parties, a judge already acquainted with the case and possibly having led a settlement conference may conduct the hearing.

For cases that align with its appropriate criteria, Binding JDR can serve as an efficient avenue to achieve resolutions for clients who lack the resources or inclination for protracted litigation and aren’t seeking resolutions for intricate legal matters.

For more information on Binding JDR, please see the following link containing the Superior Court of Justice Practice Advisory, which was most recently amended on August 1, 2023. You can also contact us for a family lawyer Toronto free consultation if you’re currently undergoing a separation or a divorce lawyer Toronto if you need support.