Staying Out of Court – Resolving Family Law Issues With Mediation
Mar 12, 2021
On March 1, 2021, changes to Canada’s Divorce Act came into effect. Some of the changes aim to reduce the number of family law cases that end up going through the family court system for resolution. One significant change is a requirement that makes it the duty of family lawyers to inform their clients about the availability and suitability of mediation or family dispute resolution [FDR] as an alternative to family court. In some cases, family court is the right option; however, most divorce cases can be settled without litigation, which is ultimately better for everyone involved.
Avoid the Time and Expense
Going to court is costly for you and for the court system. A divorce case that involves a trip to family court can cost tens of thousands of dollars for each side. The longer it takes to reach a settlement, the greater the costs will be. Furthermore, the family court system is typically overtaxed, so you may have to wait months for a court date, particularly during COVID-19 which has created a backlog. It’s not unusual for the entire process to be drawn out, ultimately contributing to the cost. On the other hand, mediation means you are not at the mercy of the court’s schedule, and agreements are reached more quickly so you can begin the process of moving on.
Family Dispute Resolution is More Personal
Another downside to litigating a divorce case in court is that you leave your family’s future to be decided by strangers. Without intimate knowledge of your situation, a judge can only decide based on the law that has been applied to other families. While the court aims to do what’s best for families, often, there is not enough time available for each side to fully present their concerns. When divorce cases are mediated, there is more time and more opportunity to present each side of the story and for the mediator to fully understand the issues at hand.
Mediation Supports Ongoing Relationships
Court cases tend to foster animosity, while mediation encourages communication throughout the process of reaching an agreement. That’s better for everyone, especially where children are involved. Mediation supports the two-way dialogue needed to make difficult parenting decisions, such as what schools the children will attend and the division of time between households. Once the divorce is settled, having participated in mediation makes it easier to settle into a new ongoing relationship that is manageable for you and easier on the children.
The new Divorce Act addresses the benefits that FDR can bring to families going through a divorce. Previously, we called this “alternative dispute resolution” however, with the new changes, out-of-court resolution mechanisms are no longer an alternative and are to be encouraged by family lawyers. Having worked for many years with families going through the divorce, both in and out of court, I have seen the benefits that mediation offers in reaching agreements that are in the best interest of kids and parents. As the new act recognizes, mediation and dispute resolution should be the default method that families expect to resolve issues.
Kelly D. Jordan is certified as a specialist in family law. Contact Kelly anytime to talk about mediation and dispute resolution to settle a divorce or family law matter, including the division of property and parenting agreements.