Expert Family Law Lawyer/Mediator/Arbitrator/Collaborative Practitioner/Arbitrator with over 30 years of experience in Family Law. My focus is on Family Dispute Resolution Processes.
In 1984 I graduated from Carleton University in Ottawa with a Bachelor of Arts degree with Distinction. Since my call to the Bar in 1991, I have practiced exclusively in the area of Family Law. While my practice was initially litigation oriented, in 2001 I began focusing my attention on alternative dispute resolution approaches to Family Law. After completing my Certification as a Third Party Neutral from the Canadian Institute for Conflict Resolution in 2001 and subsequent training in Family Mediation, I began my Family Mediation Practice in 2004. I have been an Accredited Family Law Mediator since 2007. In 2003 I received my training in Collaborative Family Law and continue to practice as a panelist for the Ottawa Collaborative Law Network. In 2014 I completed the training required by the Ministry of the Attorney General to become an Ontario Family Arbitrator and have maintained my qualifications through further ongoing training.
While negotiations is an integral part of every dispute resolution process, often solicitor
negotiations without the use of other processes will lead to resolution of all issues. Where there are
fairly complex financial and parenting issues, I generally find that clients benefit financially and
emotionally from using negotiations in the context of mediation or collaborative family law.
If you hire me as your lawyer and collaborative family law is not feasible, I will almost always recommend you attend mediation with another professional mediator in order to minimize your legal fees. In doing so, I will take a back seat role and assist only with questions or concerns that arise in between mediation sessions and in providing independent legal advice on any agreements reached in mediation. Occasionally but rarely, where complex issues arise mediators may request the presence of lawyers at one or more mediation sessions.
I recognize that mediation is not always appropriate or desirable and can assist you in determining your specific process needs.
As a mediator, I act as a neutral third party facilitator to assist you and your spouse in addressing
and resolving the issues surrounding your separation.
My experience tells me that mediation is often the most appropriate dispute resolution process. The benefits of mediation include:
I am an Accredited Family Mediator (Acc. F.M.) through the Ontario Association for Family Mediation and have practiced Family Mediation for approximately 16 years (since 2004).
I am also certified with the Canadian Institute for Conflict Resolution where I completed an intensive 160 hour program in alternative dispute resolution.
I have been an active member of Ontario Association for Family Mediation for many years, having served on the Ottawa Board of Directors as President, Vice President, Treasurer and Membership Director.
Collaborative Family Law
With CFL, the parties and lawyers are focused on cooperative and collaborative negotiations. One of
the keys to success of the CFL process is that the parties and lawyers all endorse, literally and
figuratively, a contract not to litigate. CFL lawyers are specially trained family law lawyers.
Negotiations generally transpire in 4-way meetings in a controlled, safe, and respectful setting.
Like mediation, Collaborative Family uses interest based negotiations with the aim of finding resolutions that meet the mutual goals of the parties. Like mediation, the collaborative process allows parties to think and implement solutions “outside the box”.
Respecting certain ground rules in the collaborative process allows communication to flow with a positive ‘forward’ thinking focus, leading to more productive negotiations as opposed to the traditional adversarial approach of lawyers.
I have been on the Board of Directors for Collaborative Practice Ottawa since 2013, currently as Treasurer.
While litigation is generally the most costly family law resolution process, unfortunately it is sometimes a necessity. My litigation experience spans 20 years, and through that time I have seen the very painful effects it can have on the parties. Even where commencement of litigation is necessary, I will do my utmost to continue to work towards resolution at the very earliest opportunity. I will possibly recommend commencing court proceedings in the following circumstances:
Cohabitation & Marriage Contracts
It is strongly advised that partners who plan to cohabit or marry seek legal advice and potentially
enter into a contract to determine rights and obligations upon separation or death. This is
particularly true if this is not a first marriage or common law relationship and if either party has
The matrimonial home is given very special treatment for married couples under the Ontario Family Law Act. If you are planning to move into a home owned by you or your fiancé before or after your wedding, there are significant implications to your property rights upon marriage breakdown or death.
In Ontario, the Family Law Act gives parties the right to enter into a contract that governs their property and spousal support rights upon breakdown of the relationship which will override the rights and obligations under the Ontario Family Law Act or Federal Divorce Act.
There are certain issues that cannot be addressed in a marriage or cohabitation agreement including parenting rights and, for married couples, rights relating to possession, financing or sale of the matrimonial home.
Terms of a marriage or cohabitation agreement can be negotiated through mediation or solicitor negotiation. In either case, disclosure and independent legal advice are crucial to ensure the agreement is not vulnerable to future attempts to set the agreement aside.
University of Ottawa : Doctor of Law (J.D.)
Carleton University : B.A. (with Distinction) - Human Resources Management/Personnel Administration, General
In 1984 I graduated from Carleton University in Ottawa with a Bachelor of Arts degree with
Distinction. Since my call to the Bar in 1991, I have practiced exclusively in the area of Family Law.
While my practice was initially litigation oriented, in 2001 I began focusing my attention on alternative dispute resolution approaches to Family Law. After completing my Certification as a Third Party Neutral from the Canadian Institute for Conflict Resolution in 2001 and subsequent training in Family Mediation, I began my Family Mediation Practice in 2004. I have been an Accredited Family Law Mediator since 2007.
In 2003 I received my training in Collaborative Family Law and continue to practice as a panelist for the Ottawa Collaborative Law Network.
Dalhousie University : Bachelor of Laws (LLB) (Dean's List)
McGill University : B.A. (with Distinction) - Political Science & Government
Originally from Halifax, Stephanie received her Bachelor of Arts (with distinction) majoring in
Political Science with a minor in Russian literature from McGill University in 2012. She subsequently
attended the Schulich School of Law at Dalhousie University where she obtained her law degree,
graduating on the Dean’s List, in 2015.
Stephanie went on to article for Legal Aid Manitoba where she focused almost exclusively upon litigating matters of family law and child protection. She was called to the Bar of Manitoba in June of 2016.
Stephanie was subsequently called to the Bar of Ontario in September of 2016 and found a perfect match with Cohen Family Law, a firm she was drawn to given Barb Cohen’s strong emphasis on alternative dispute resolution. Since joining Cohen Family Law, Stephanie has received her training in Collaborative Family Law and has also become an accredited Family Law Mediator with the Ontario Association for Family Mediation.
Carleton University : Bachelor of Commerce (BComm)
Sandra started working with Barbara in 2006, having received her Bachelor of Commerce in 1986. She
was brought into the team not only for her expertise with numbers but her keen intelligence and sense
of justice. Having left a lucrative career with Canada Post to raise her four children, Barbara was
the lucky recipient of her new career path upon her return to the work force.
The reality is, lawyers are not trained in accounting or to deal with the multitude of complexities in this field relating to Family Law. Adding Sandra to the team has been a godsend and we have learned a great deal from each other. Her expertise with numbers and her ability to apply this to her now extensive knowledge of Family Law has added a great service to clients at a much reduced cost.
Clients are continually praising Sandra on “LawyerRatingz” for her passion, compassion and overall attention to detail that are so important to Family Law. Sandra is very much responsible for the success of Cohen Family Law.
Algonquin College : Law Clerk Intensive (GPA 3.89)
Holly began her employment at Cohen Family Law in 2022 as a new graduate. In 2019, she graduated from
Carleton University with a Bachelor of Honours Criminology and Criminal Justice degree (Dean’s List)
with a concentration in Sociology. In 2020, she completed a Victimology Post-Graduate Certificate
(Dean’s List) and received the Canadian Resource Centre for Victims of Crime - Advocacy award. In
2022, she obtained a Diploma in the accelerated Law Clerk program at Algonquin College (Dean’s List).
Holly's knowledge and experience in Family Law has grown substantially since she started at Cohen Family Law, and she has become an invaluable member of the team
Western University : Doctor of Law (J.D.)
McGill University : B.A. - Major in History, Minor in Political Science
Nick received his Bachelor of Arts majoring in History with a minor in Political Science from McGill
University in 2012. Nick briefly worked for a non-profit in South Africa. He then attended Western Law
School where he earned his Juris Doctor in 2016.
Nick started his law career at a large law firm in Oshawa, Ontario where he primarily focused on Family Law and agency work for the Public Prosecution Service of Canada. After a few years of practice with a focus on litigation, Nick decided that he wanted to focus on Family Law exclusively, including alternate dispute resolution processes. To this end, he reached out to Barbara Cohen, and both soon realized that Nick would be a perfect fit for Cohen Family Law. He and his family made the move to Ottawa and he started with Cohen Family Law in May, 2021.
Nick is well on his way to completing his family mediation accreditation with the Ontario Association for Family Mediation.
Read from some of our happy customers.
Seperation Roadmap to Success Brochure
The Seperation Roadmap to Success was developed by Barb Cohen, two colleagues, and an independant designer
and is widely used by lawyers throughout Ottawa.
It is endorsed by Family Services Ottawa, Ontario Association of Family Mediation, and Collaborative Practice Ottawa and used as a resource for clients at the Family Law Information Centre (FLIC) at the Ottawa Court House.
Chin Radio: Dispute Resolution
I chaired and participated in the CHIN radio 12 part series on dispute resolution in family law:
- Listen to Show 1
- Listen to Show 7: Part 1
- Listen to Show 7: Part 2
- Listen to Show 12: Part 1
- Listen to Show 12: Part 2
- Listen to Show 13: Part 1
- Listen to Show 13: Part 2
As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, in order to ensure everyone's safety, we have been operating some of
our regular services through secure video and teleconferencing.
We found conferencing through ZOOM was appealing to many of our clients as it eased travel time compared to
We continue to conduct zoom meetings, but we are back to in-person meetings for clients who prefer this.
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Tuesday: 9am - 5pm
Wednesday: 9am - 5pm
Thursday: 9am - 5pm
Friday: 9am - 4pm