A dispute resolution officer (DRO) is a lawyer who is a member in good standing of the Law Society of Upper Canada, has practiced primarily in the field of family law for a minimum of ten years, and has been appointed to assist the judges and the court system. At Toronto’s divorce court—the Ontario Superior Court of Justice, the DRO meets with separated spouses before their case proceeds to a hearing before a judge to attempt to resolve their case, or at least to narrowly define the issues and create a timetable to proceed to a hearing.
DRO’s are typically involved in cases where one spouse is applying to the court to change a child support order or to change the parenting plan. The programme has been very successful. Approximately two-thirds of the cases are settled by the DRO without proceeding before a judge. Those cases that do proceed to a hearing before a judge have benefited by the DRO assisting the parties in defining the issues and ensuring that the proper evidence is submitted to the judge.