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Collaborative Law Practitioner


Harper Law offers families in transition a better approach and outcome.

Creative solutions with informed knowledge add value to outcomes.


Curriculum Vitae of Shelly Harper: 


         Lawyer - Mediator - Arbitrator 


Shelly obtained her law degree at the University of Western Ontario in 1983 and was called to the Bar in 1985. Shelly has practiced law in Kitchener since that time. While Shelly has extensive courtroom experience including appearances before the Ontario Superior Court of Justice, the Divisional Court, the Ontario Court of Appeal and the Supreme Court of Canada, she now focuses her practice on alternative methods of dispute resolution including collaborative practice, mediation, arbitration, mediation/arbitration and neutral evaluations. These processes allow for a balance between legal rights and interests.

Shelly has completed level 1 and 2 advance training in Collaborative Practice as well as interdisciplinary Collaborative Practice training. She has completed mediation training in alternate dispute resolution and as well has completed programs for assessing domestic violence and power imbalances for family law arbitrations. Shelly has been an invited lecturer/speaker/panelist many times over the course of her career.

She has been the past president of the Best4all-Collaborative Practice of Waterloo Region and is current an executive member as well as being a member of the Law Society of Upper Canada, the Waterloo Law Association, and a member of the Ontario Collaborative Law Federation.

Shelly assists her family law clients in negotiating cohabitation agreements, marriage contracts and separation agreements including parenting plans. She has extensive experience in dealing with complex property and support issues.

Shelly not only acts as an advocate for her clients in transition but also provides services as a mediator, arbitrator, mediator/arbitrator and neutral evaluator to families.

Given Shelly’s legal knowledge and experience she is able to provide effective advocacy and creative and innovative solutions.


The services that Shelly Harper provides are listed below: 







For further information on each service please see the Processes page.





Collaborative Practice is a voluntary process providing for an alternate way to resolve disputes in a time and cost efficient manner, without the necessity of going to court. Collaborative Practice involves working with specially trained professionals who will assist you in reaching an acceptable resolution of all the issues arising when families are in transition. The Collaborative Practice team will include your own lawyer who acts as your advocate throughout the process and may include other collaboratively trained professionals such as financial professionals, family professionals and mediators.

Mediation is a voluntary process that involves the selection of a mediator who has special training in order to assist families in resolving the issues that arise during transition. The mediator is a neutral facilitator and does not provide legal advice to either party. The mediator assists the parties in reaching resolution and may be evaluative in that role. The mediation may be either open (with prejudice) or closed (without prejudice). Most mediations are closed. If the mediator is evaluative, her suggestions are not binding on the parties.

Arbitration is a voluntary process whereby the parties agree through the entering into a family arbitration agreement to submit issues for determination by the arbitrator. The issues are submitted for determination subject to appeal provisions as set forth in the Arbitration Act, the Family Act and the family arbitration agreement. The arbitrator is a neutral and impartial third party who has no interest in the dispute. The role of the arbitrator is to make a final decision on all the issues that are in dispute between the parties.

Mediation/Arbitration is a voluntary process whereby the parties select a person who will act firstly as a mediator and in the event that the issues are not resolved within the mediation process, a hearing will be held and the same person will be the arbitrator and determine by way of an award, the outstanding issues. The arbitrator is a neutral and impartial third party with no interest in the dispute. The role of the arbitrator is to make a final decision on all the issues that are in dispute between the parties.

A neutral evaluation is a voluntary process whereby the parties agree within a confidential settlement process that is without prejudice, that the neutral evaluator will assist the parties in their negotiation by providing a neutral evaluation of the issue(s) that the parties are discussing. The neutral evaluator will not make decisions for the parties but will express a view or evaluate the position of either party on a particular point. The neutral evaluator does not provide legal advice to the parties.



Frequently Asked Questions
Helpful Links

1. How long will my matter take?

In an interest based process the length of time depends on the willingness and ability of the two parties to cooperate and reach solution. In such processes, the parties are in control of the outcome.

2. How much will this cost?

The cost is dependent on the time that the professionals are involved in your matter. Therefore the more cooperative, focused and prepared the parties are, the less time will be spent and the fees will reflect this.

3. Do we both need independent legal advice?

Independent legal advice is strongly recommended no matter what process you chose to reach resolution within.

4. How do I go from my initial interview with a lawyer to resolution?

- This is the most important discussion that you will have in your initial interview with your lawyer, namely that of process. You need to choose a process to move forward in and within which to reach resolution.

5. Can a lawyer work as a mediator in the same matter?

- No, they are two different functions therefore Ms. Harper cannot both be a lawyer for one party and a mediator for both parties.

6. What is a Parenting Plan?

- Broadly speaking, a parenting plan has three main areas. One being important decisions and how they are made by the parents, ie: jointly, by one parent or the other. The second being, what is the schedule of care for the children, (ie: times when the children are in the care of each parent). The third being, how will any issues concerning the children be resolved? Ie: what is the problem solving protocol. The parenting plan can be as simple or as complex as each family determines is in the best interest of their children. The parenting plan will be attached as a Schedule to your separation agreement and will be binding upon the parents.

7. Will my children be alright?

The simple answer is that if the two parents are not in conflict, their children will be fine. It is up to the parents to negotiate in good faith and from a child centred perspective an appropriate parenting plan.

8. Will I be required to pay and/or can I expect to receive spousal support?

- This depends on a number of factors. The first issue is whether or not a spouse has an entitlement to spousal support. This consideration involves looking at a number of components including but not limited to:

  • the effect on the spouse’s earning capacity of the responsibilities assumed during the relationship;

  • the roles adopted by the spouses during the relationship;

  • whether there has been any economic advantages or disadvantages to the spouses arising from the relationship or its breakdown;

  • consideration of any financial consequences arising from the care of any child of the relationship;

  • consideration of any economic hardship arising from the breakdown of the relationship;

  • to in so far as practical, promote the economic self-sufficiency of each spouse within a  reasonable period of time;

  • the effect on the spouse’s earnings and career development of the responsibility of caring for a child;

  • the parties current assets and means;

  • the assets and means that the parties are likely to have in the future;

  • the capacity of each party to contribute to his or her own support and/or to provide support;

  • the parties ages and physical and mental health;

  • a party’s needs which will be reviewed in the context of the accustomed standard of living while the parties resided together;

  • any legal obligation of the parties to provide support for another person.

If there is an entitlement to spousal support, there will then be a review of the spousal support advisory guidelines both as to quantum and duration.

  • Family Law Act:

  • Divorce Act:

  • Arbitration Act: 

  • Parenting Plan (Template):

  • Collaborative Family Law Association Waterloo-Wellington

  • Ontario Collaboratice Family Law Association:

  • Service Ontario (Marriage Certificate):

  • Registered Divorce:

  • Pension Forms:

  • Canada Revenue Agency:

  • Canada Child Benefit (NEW 2016):

  • ODSP: 

  • Trillium Program:

  • Federal Child Support Guidelines:




68 Queen St N

Kitchener, Ontario

N2H 2H2

Tel:  (519) 578-4400

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