What is Mediation
What are the Benefits of Mediation for Your Divorce?
Separation and divorce often create a challenging situation where two opposing parties must work together to resolve their family law issues. Mediation is generally a better way to resolve a family law case compared to family court, with a few exceptions such as emergencies like child abductions. It is usually the best first step if both parties are safe in the process, as it allows for a more collaborative and less adversarial approach to finding a mutually beneficial solution.
Benefits to using mediation to resolve a family law dispute:
- Cost: Mediation is oftentimes less expensive than going to court because it involves fewer formal procedures and less preparation time. In a court setting, both parties typically hire lawyers to represent them, which can be costly. The mediator will keep the parties focused on the issues and avoid irrelevant discussions so that the parties may resolve the dispute quickly. This streamlined process can ultimately result in significant cost savings for both parties involved.
- Time: Mediation can often be completed in a shorter timeframe than litigation. Court proceedings can take much longer to complete due to a backlog of cases and scheduling delays. In contrast, mediation is often completed in a shorter time frame and can be scheduled at the convenience of both parties. This also leads to reduced costs.
Control & Flexibility: Family law mediation allows the parties to have more control over the outcome of their dispute, as they can craft their own resolution rather than having a judge decide for them. It also allows for unique options for resolution in addition to those available through a court order. The mediator helps move the parties away from their fixed positions in divorce and separation and towards a solution that meets the needs of everyone involved.
Confidentiality: Family law mediation is confidential and “without prejudice”. In this way the former spouses can discuss their family law issues in a safe and private setting without worrying that their discussions will come out later in court.
Relationship: Mediation can help to preserve relationships, as it allows the parties to work together to find a mutually acceptable resolution rather than becoming adversaries in a court battle. The mediator will help the parties listen to each other and encourage them to look at their issues from different points of view. Together, they will explore ideas for dispute resolution in their separation and divorce.
Family law mediation has a success rate of approximately 70-80% in resolving disputes related to custody, access, and child support.
Maintaining a working relationship after separation or divorce is particularly important in cases involving children as it helps with co-parenting. The family law dispute resolution methods learned in mediation can be used to better maintain healthy post separation relationships.
- Emotional: Mediation can be less emotionally draining than litigation, as it allows the parties to work together to find a solution rather than being in an adversarial position.
Voluntary: Mediation is usually voluntary so the parties can choose the family law mediator that they want, and they are not bound by any proposals discussed during the mediation process. Since the parties take an active role in resolving the dispute during divorce and family law mediation, they are more likely to be satisfied with the outcome and to comply with the terms of the settlement.
It is important to note that mediation may not be appropriate for every situation. It is always a good idea to seek legal advice before deciding whether to proceed with mediation.
What is family law mediation?
Family law mediation is a process in which a neutral third party (the mediator) helps people who are involved in a family law dispute to reach a mutually acceptable resolution of their disagreement. Mediation is a voluntary process, which means that the parties must be willing to participate for it to be successful.
Family law mediation is typically used to resolve disputes related to issues such as:
- Child custody and parenting arrangements
- Child support
- Spousal support
- Division of property and debts
- And more
The mediator does not make decisions for the parties, but rather helps them to communicate effectively and explore options for resolving their dispute. The goal of mediation is to help the parties reach a mutually acceptable agreement that addresses their needs and concerns.
Mediation is often faster and less expensive than going to court, and it can also be less stressful for the parties involved. It is also private, which means that the parties can discuss sensitive issues in a confidential setting. Mediation also allows the parties to have more control over the outcome of their dispute, preserve relationships and avoid the acrimony that can result from a court battle.
A study of family mediation cases in British Columbia found that 89% of cases resulted in a full or partial settlement.
How Does Mediation Work?
After speaking with the intake coordinator to avoid issues around conflict of interest, family law mediation usually begins with a consultation between the mediator and the parties involved. During this initial meeting, the mediator will explain the process of mediation, answer any questions the parties may have, and assess whether mediation is an appropriate option for their specific situation. If it is determined that mediation is appropriate, the parties will then schedule a series of mediation sessions.
During the mediation sessions, the mediator will facilitate communication between the parties and help them identify their needs and interests. The mediator will not make decisions for the parties or give legal advice, but rather will help them find common ground and work towards a resolution. The mediator may also provide information and resources to assist the parties in understanding the legal and practical issues related to their dispute.
The mediation process is less formal than a courtroom setting and can take place in the mediator's office or another neutral location. The parties may bring legal counsel with them to the mediation sessions, but it is not required. Mediation sessions can be scheduled on a flexible basis, and the number of sessions needed will depend on the complexity of the dispute and the willingness of the parties to reach an agreement.
The goal of mediation is to help the parties reach a mutually acceptable agreement without going to court. If an agreement is reached, the mediator will typically draft a written document outlining the terms of the agreement. This document is not legally binding, unless signed by the partied.
A study of family mediation in Alberta found that 87% of cases resulted in a full or partial settlement.
How to prepare for family law mediation
Here are some tips for preparing for family law mediation:
- Gather all relevant documents: It is important to have all relevant documents on hand for the mediation, including any court orders, agreements, financial statements, and other relevant documents.
- Think about your goals: Take some time to think about what you hope to achieve through the mediation process. What are your main concerns and priorities?
- Be open to compromise: Mediation is all about finding a mutually acceptable solution to a dispute. Be prepared to listen to the other party's perspective and consider their needs and concerns.
- Consider hiring a lawyer: You may want to consider hiring a lawyer to provide you with legal advice and representation during the mediation process.
- Prepare to be flexible: The mediation process can be unpredictable, so it is important to be flexible and open to exploring different options for resolving the dispute.
- Take care of yourself: Mediation can be emotionally draining, so make sure to take care of yourself both physically and emotionally. This might include getting enough sleep, eating well, and seeking support from friends and family.
For a more detailed checklist, check out our blog, Mediation Checklist for Divorce by BC Mediator, Melissa Salfi.