The Dispute Resolution Officer (DRO) program is a Court-sponsored program that allows and encourages parents to address and resolve their child support disputes through an alternative dispute resolution process, as opposed to a Court application. The parties attend a DRO session with a senior Family Law lawyer for one hour to address the parties questions and concerns, and to facilitate discussion between the parties to encourage a resolution outside of Court.
The DRO will discuss preliminary steps with both parties, such as the importance of exchanging financial disclosure. The DRO will also use their mediation skills to assist the parties in achieving resolution. If the parties are unable to reach an agreement, the DRO is able to discuss the risks and benefits of proceeding with a Court application in this matter, and the possible outcomes in Court.
All discussions and negotiations in DRO session are “without prejudice”, meaning that neither party may bring up these settlement discussions in Court. If time permits and the DRO is willing, other issues (such as parenting/access) may be addressed.
DROs are free of charge, and parties are required to attend a DRO prior to filing a Court Application for or to vary child support in the Court of Queen’s Bench. It is possible to obtain a temporary DRO exemption if there is an immediate need for support, however the DRO sessions provide a cost-effective and cooperative opportunity to resolve disputes.