Family dispute resolution: Characteristics of cases resolved by trial

Karine Poitras*, Rachel Birnbaum, Michael Saini, Nicholas Bala, Francine Cyr

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The vast majority of parental separations and divorces are resolved without resulting in a trial in family court, but the cases that proceed to trial have both higher financial and emotional costs for families. A better understanding of the factors associated with the use of a trial to resolve family disputes can assist the family justice system to develop triage models to identify these cases at an early stage, and to provide resources to families to reduce the likelihood of a trial. A court file study was undertaken at two family courts in Québec, Canada. Of the total random sample (n = 987), 48 cases went to trial, revealing a low rate of trials in the family justice system, though one that is higher than in other Canadian jurisdictions. An additional oversampling of 100 court files that went to trial was completed to better understand the factors associated with trials. Multivariate logistic regression was used to identify factors associated with resolution of a case by a trial. Results show that 6 predictors variables were associated with a family trial: a temporary care motion; not having a joint application; representation of the respondent by a lawyer; younger children involved; child resistance to contact; and prior unsuccessful use of mediation services. These findings suggest the importance of the early identification of cases that are likely to result in trials based on the factors reported. Future research is required about the decision-making processes of parents, lawyers and judges for a better understanding of the pathways through the family justice process.

Original languageEnglish
Article number105832
JournalChildren and Youth Services Review
StatePublished - Apr 2021
Externally publishedYes


  • Access to justice
  • Family law trial
  • High-conflict separations


Dive into the research topics of 'Family dispute resolution: Characteristics of cases resolved by trial'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this