Understanding the Mediation Process

Ask a Family Lawyer: Understanding the Mediation Process

Melissa Salfi, an accredited Family Law Mediator at Crossroads Law, defines mediation and what you can expect from a mediation process. 



If you talk to any legal professional, they will tell you that mediation is a proven method of dispute resolution. It’s efficient, it’s cost-effective, it’s child-centred and it allows the parties to control the outcome while preserving their relationship. 

Hi, my name is Melisa Salfi. I’m a family & fertility lawyer, accredited mediator and collaborative divorce lawyer at Crossroads Law in Vancouver.

I get all sorts of questions about family law so at Crossroads Law, we developed “Ask a Family Lawyer” to share those answers with you, so please subscribe to this channel to get your family law questions answered.

So, what is mediation? Simply put, in the context of family law, mediation is a dispute resolution process where an impartial third party, the mediator, assists the parties who are in dispute by facilitating their communication and negotiation in a structured manner.

I’m often asked, what can I expect from a mediation?

The mediation process is private, it’s confidential and in most cases, it’s voluntary. I personally start each case by having the parties complete separate intake forms, after which I schedule individual meetings with each party. The purpose of my meeting with each party is to assess whether this case is even suitable for mediation, and to determine how to best structure the process.

In most cases, the parties will be in the same room for most of the mediation, and I will only meet with each party separately in very specific circumstances, so we call that a caucus. There are some cases where it’s preferable or necessary for the parties to be in separate rooms throughout the mediation and we refer to this as shuttle mediation.

As a mediator, my role is to be an impartial facilitator who manages the process. I will guide the parties’ discussions and negotiation and help them find common interests. Also throughout the course of the mediation, we will be exploring creative solutions.

While a mediator does not possess decision-making authority, we can as lawyers trained in mediation provide information, explain the law and in some circumstances, provide you with an evaluation of the potential outcomes of your case especially were it to be heard in Court. If the parties reach an agreement, I can also draft a separation agreement for them and that will be subject to independent legal advice with separate lawyers.

Every mediator has their own approach and style. I personally became a mediator because I have seen firsthand how Court can devastate parties emotionally and financially. I have a background in psychology, and what we know from the research in that field is that divorce is the second most stressful life event after the death of a person’s spouse or child. We also know from the studies done by clinical psychologists that the likelihood of negative outcomes for children of divorce is 50% higher than for other children. Importantly though, it is the level of parental conflict, as opposed to the divorce itself, which causes significant negative consequences for children.

By becoming a mediator, I really hope to help families and children avoid these terrible outcomes. I’m passionate about working with families and helping them through one of the most difficult times in their lives. My goal is to try to minimize their stress through proven methods. I would describe my approach to mediation as compassionate and practical. I care about my clients and my priority is to make sure they are comfortable and feel empowered to voice their interests, concerns, and fears during the process.

Hopefully you found this information to be helpful and if you’re interested in learning more, you can visit our website at crossroadslaw.ca and check out our educational blogs or book a free consultation with one of the family lawyers or mediators at Crossroads.

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