Spousal Support Mediation
Jun 19, 2021
As a family law attorney, I have worked with countless couples and families going through separation and divorce. There are many emotions when dealing with the breakup of a relationship while also negotiating parenting arrangements, division of property, child support and spousal support. Figuring out the money is often contentious, but particularly determining whether one spouse is entitled to spousal support, the amount of spousal support, and how long it will be paid. Spousal support refers to money paid by one spouse to the other after a separation. In some jurisdictions, it is called alimony.
There are several reasons why spousal support could be paid, including compensating one spouse for being financially disadvantaged during the relationship or preventing one spouse from suffering financial hardship as a result of the divorce.
Most of the divorce cases in my practice are settled by mediation. The process is much quicker and easier than going to family court, and mediation is now recommended in Canada’s Divorce Act.
What is Fair for Spousal Support?
Negotiations over spousal support can become heated during the mediation process because not everyone agrees on what is fair and equitable. When resentment and hurt build up for many years, the resulting animosity can make the negotiation process more difficult. Litigation in family court is always a last resort option. However, settling divorce cases in court is unpleasant, costly and takes a very long time – especially with the backlog of cases caused by the pandemic.
Mediation offers an opportunity for spouses to creatively make use of periodic (monthly) support and lump sum support. Certainty can be important for both recipients and payors and allows spouses to move forward knowing their financial future. In some circumstances, parties can reach an agreement that is final with a termination date. These creative solutions are not available in a courtroom where generally speaking, judges order periodic ongoing monthly support that is reviewable in the future at some point.
Not only is the litigation process unpleasant for everyone, but often the outcome is not exactly what either of you wanted. There is limited time and opportunity to give all of the information you want to share with the court. Communication takes place mainly through lawyers who keep it brief because they have to. Despite what you may see on TV law dramas, there’s no room or time for impassioned speeches in court. The judge must decide based on the information presented, but that may not be absolutely all of the information. So the decision you get may not be the decision you were hoping for.
Say What You Need to Say
In mediation, both spouses have an opportunity to state their concerns and to provide as much context as necessary. Mediation involves negotiation, so you can offer and counter-offer until an agreement is reached. Generally speaking, mediation gets more satisfactory results for both sides because both sides are involved in reaching the decision.
No one likes to be told what to do – even if what they are told is in their own best interest. Following through on a court-ordered decision can seem like a bitter pill to swallow. However, when people feel that their voice was heard, they are more likely to follow through with making spousal support payments regularly and on time. Similarly, spouses receiving spousal support are more likely to feel that they were given a fair deal.
Get Along to Move On
Generally speaking, spousal support mediation results in less animosity, which is better for everyone, especially children. Through the mediation process, some of the anger and resentment can be dealt with so that you can both begin the process of moving on. Spousal support may still mean that there is a connection with your ex, however, if you’ve both worked together (with a mediator) to decide on the outcome, it can be much easier to manage.
There’s no way around the fact that divorce is a difficult and stressful process. However, spousal support mediation can help diffuse some of the emotion so you can get through it as quickly and easily as possible.
Kelly D Jordan is a divorce lawyer in Toronto, specializing in family law mediation. Book a consultation with Kelly and her team to better understand mediation for divorce and how the process could work for you.