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Mediation and Navigating A High Conflict Divorce

Is family law mediation appropriate in high conflict divorce? In the past, many legal experts may have said family law mediation was not appropriate. And while that may be true in some cases, the reality is that like cases involving family violence, mediation can be a better choice for high conflict divorce.

Mistrust, hurt feelings, and some level of conflict is normal after a separation. Your lives are changing radically, and the future you imagined for yourself is no longer clear. This uncertainty creates feelings of anxiety, hurt and anger.  There is a difference between this natural level of conflict, and high-conflict divorce.

Common Factors in High Conflict Divorces

High-conflict cases can result from a number of factors – perhaps one person has a history of controlling behaviour, or perhaps both parties have deeply-embedded hostility. The divorce may be a result of years of mistrust and lack of communication. Perhaps the only way the two people know how to communicate is through conflict.

Addiction, substance abuse and mental health issues can also be contributing factors. The reality is that there are reasons why two people divorce, and those reasons can create conflict, even with the best of intentions.

High-conflict divorce cases can be complex to navigate, with both sides providing very different versions of interactions, leaving lawyers and other professionals involved, to try to work through the best courses of action.

The result when high-conflict divorce cases are litigated in court is often long, drawn out proceedings, with many twists and turns. These cases can have high lawyer fees on both sides – and often an outcome that leaves neither party satisfied. If children are involved, a high-conflict divorce can lead to lasting emotional trauma.

How Experienced and Effective Family Law Court Mediation Can Help

Family law court mediation is an alternative method to resolve conflict without going to court. We’ve discussed the benefits of mediation many times in our blogs. Mediation has been shown time and time again to reduce time to resolve cases, decrease costs involved in legal matters, and result in higher satisfaction with the outcome of cases.

You may be thinking that’s all fine and good for cases where there are very few disagreements, but the reality is that family law court mediation can work in all types of cases – including high-conflict divorces.

How? Because during mediation, the people involved have a role in the outcome of their cases. This is different from court, where the judge can impose an outcome. An experienced family law mediator will open the lines of communication and help the people involved find areas of common ground.

According to an article from the Canadian Bar Association, family law court mediation ranked highest as being useful for three specific areas: 1) care of children and parenting, 2) child or spousal support, and 3) division of property and debt. The same study showed mediation produced results in half the time of litigation – even in high-conflict cases.

What to Look for in a Mediator for a High Conflict Divorce

Choosing an effective mediator for your case can be critical when approaching a high-conflict divorce.

  • Qualifications – are they recognized and qualified as mediators? What is their educational background? Qualified mediators can come from many fields. They can be lawyers, social workers, psychologists or other professionals. What is critical for you?
  • Experience is something you should look for with any mediator. Do they have experience mediating cases, and do they have experience mediating your type of case?
  • Style and Approach – best results come when both parties involved in the negotiation are comfortable with the style and approach of their mediator. If one party feels forced or pressured into choosing a mediator, negotiations may be more likely to break down.

Before deciding on a family law court mediator, ask for references either from other lawyers, or clients that have worked with your mediator. That should give you a sense of how they work, and if their process is right for you.

Kelly D. Jordan – Experienced in Family Law and Family Law Mediation

Kelly Jordan is an experienced family law mediator, who uses her creative strategic thinking, legal expertise, and wealth of family law experience to present her clients with fair solutions that satisfy the needs of both parties. Kelly understands the emotional trauma that can be felt by both sides during a divorce, and is sensitive to delicate issues like finances and child care. She works hard to resolve cases to the benefit of the entire family. If you are looking for a family law court mediator, book a free 10-minute phone call with Kelly to find out more.

Follow the Kelly D. Jordan Family Law Firm on Facebook.


Canadian Bar Association: Comparative effectiveness of dispute resolution processes in family law conflicts – https://www.cba.org/Sections/Alternative-Dispute-Resolution/Articles/2018/Comparative-effectiveness

The Vanier Institute: The Complexity and Impacts of High-Conflict Family Cases – https://vanierinstitute.ca/the-complexity-and-impacts-of-high-conflict-family-cases/

JAMS Foundation – Mediation vs. Litigation for High-Conflict Divorce: Mediating Through Hostility and Changing a High-Conflict Client’s Perspective – https://www.jamsadr.com/blog/2019/mediation-vs-litigation-for-high-conflict-divorce