What is Divorce & Family Mediation?
Not every divorce needs to go to court. Divorce and family mediation can be a great—and relatively cheap—option for couples who want to stay out of court. But first, what is a divorce mediation?
Mediation is a form of alternative dispute resolution. Lawyers have a responsibility to advise their clients of the availability of options to help their clients resolve legal issues without going to court.
In short, both spouses meet with a mediator. A mediator is a neutral third party who helps the spouses resolve their legal issues together—without the need for expensive litigation or drawn-out conflict. Family mediators are specially-trained to help people communicate through the emotional turmoil of a divorce.
At Morrison LLP, our mediators are Practicing Mediators with the Alberta Family Mediation Society, and have experience dealing with emotionally-charged situation, and are knowledgeable about the relevant legal issues. Generally, family mediation focuses on the following issues:
- Parenting – Often the hardest issue to deal with is parenting—”who gets the kids?” Our mediators help parents see past their personal differences, and focus their attention on the children’s best interests.
- Child Support – Child support is generally an “easy” issue from a legal standpoint. A mediator can help spouses understand their child support obligations.
- Spousal Support – Spousal support can be tricky for spouses to negotiate on their own. A mediator will help guide couples to a fair spousal support agreement.
- Family Property – A mediator will be able to explain the law in Alberta surrounding family property, and can help spouses craft a property settlement that makes sense for them as individuals, rather than a cookie-cutter solution.
What are the Benefits of Divorce Mediation?
There are many benefits of going through a family or divorce mediation, rather than going to court. For example:
1. Mediation is Cheaper – Mediation is often cheaper than litigation. Not only do the spouses share the costs of the mediator, but often it only takes one or two sessions to work out the main legal issues. This is far cheaper than fighting it out in court for months—sometimes years—on end.
2. Mediation is Faster- It can take months before your application is heard in court—and it may take years before you can secure a trial. A mediator will be able to meet with you and your spouse in a matter of weeks. Not only is this faster than going to court, but it will help you solve issues before they get too complicated.
3. Mediation is Less Stressful – Litigation is very stressful. Not only will you need to prepare many complicated (and expensive) documents, but you may be called to testify at trial. All eyes will be on you. In a mediation you have the chance to resolve your disputes quickly and affordably, without endless delays.
4. Mediation Protects Privacy – Many people do not know this, but what goes to court is typically a matter of public record. This means that documents filed in court may be available to third parties. If nothing else, your “dirty laundry” will likely be aired in Family Chambers, in front of an audience of other people with family law matters. In a mediation, your issues are between you, your spouse, and the mediator.
5. Mediation is Flexible – In a mediation, the spouses have the chance to create their own custom settlement agreement. This lets them resolve their issues in a way that works for them—rather than letting a Judge decide for them. Remember, Judges do not know you, and they may be inclined to provide cookie-cutter solutions in situations where they have to make a fast decision (like in Family Chambers).
6. Mediation Works – People are more likely to follow mediated agreements because they themselves created the agreement.
Should I Use Divorce Mediation?
Mediation can help clients resolve their matters efficiently and economically. Mediation also helps spouses avoid court, which often leads to more conflict between spouses. As a result, the Family Court is often referring parties to attempt mediation before litigating their matters.
We recommend that most newly-separated couples attempt mediation as a first option. If it does not work, at least the spouses can say that they tried. There are certain situations in which mediation will probably not be helpful, for example, when there is a history of family violence.
What is the Mediation Process?
Although every mediation is different, there are a few common steps in the mediation process:
Step 1 – Initial Consult
The first step is to get in touch with a mediator, and see if they are a good fit for your legal issue. Everyone is unique, and some mediators will be able to help you more than others: sometimes you need a strong voice in the room, whereas sometimes you just need a mediator who can nudge you in the right direction. Typically, the mediator will want to meet with both spouses together, in person, before agreeing to mediate the dispute.
Call Morrison LLP at 587-758-1099 and ask to speak to a Practicing Mediator today.
Step 2 – Exchange Financial Information
Once you have hired a mediator, you and your spouse will need to exchange all of your relevant financial information. This information should also be provided to the mediator. Typically, you will need to share information about your income (tax returns or paystubs) and your net worth (bank and investment statements, mortgage documents).
Step 3 – Attend Mediation Sessions
Typically, you will need to book a minimum of two mediation sessions. This will allow the mediator time to understand the personalities of the spouses, and how best to approach the situation. Usually, we start with the least complicated issues on the first session, so that we can build momentum. Once everyone understands the process, we tackle the big issues. Sometimes spouses may require more sessions to reach an agreement, and that is OK. This is a flexible process designed to meet the needs of the separating spouses.
Step 4 – Execute a Mediated Agreement
The mediator will typically prepare an Agreement for the spouses to sign. Depending upon the legal issues involved, the spouses may need to see a lawyer for independent legal advice before the Agreement becomes binding.
Step 5 – Follow the Agreement
Most people have no problem following the terms of a mediated agreement—they made it themselves, after all. In this step, the spouses will need to do things like transfer any properties, close bank accounts, or register their agreement with Maintenance Enforcement. It will depend upon the situation.
If one of the spouses fails to follow the Agreement, then the matter may need to go to court to have it enforced. Typically, the Agreement will contain a paragraph which states that the spouse who breaches the Agreement will need to pay the legal fees of the other spouse.
Contact a Divorce Mediator Today
Morrison LLP’s mediators are Practicing Mediators with the Alberta Family Mediation Society. Please get in touch at 587-758-1099 to speak with a Practicing Mediator, and find out how we can help you work through your divorce or family law issue.
Our Practicing Mediators are proud to serve much of northern Alberta, including the following communities:
- Edmonton & Area – Sherwood Park, Beaumont, Leduc, Fort Saskatchewan, St. Albert, Spruce Grove, Stony Plain.
- North – Athabasca, Morinville, Westlock, Gibbons, Barrhead, Redwater, Peace River, High Level, Fort McMurray.
- West – Drayton Valley, Edson, Hinton, Whitecourt, Devon.
- South – Camrose, Wetaskiwin, Millet, Calmar.
- East – Vegreville, St. Paul, Cold Lake, Bonnyville, Vermillion, Wainwright, Tofield.