Alternatives to Court: Mediation.

AuthorDargatz, Sarah
PositionColumns: Family Law

In the first column in this series, John-Paul Boyd introduced basic alternatives to resolving family law disputes in court. In the second column, I wrote about the Collaborative process. In the last issue, John-Paul Boyd explained arbitration. In this column, I'm going to talk about mediation.

Mediation is a process where you and the other person involved in a dispute meet with a neutral third-party, a mediator, who assists you to reach an agreement. The mediator's role is to help you and the other person communicate civilly, express ideas in different ways, stay on track, and explore and consider options. You can think of a mediator as a guide, a translator, a coach, or a referee. The goal of a mediation is for you and the other person to reach an agreement. A mediator is not empowered to impose a solution on you and the other person. You are the decision-makers and responsible for the outcome.

Mediators can take a variety of approaches:

* In facilitative mediation, the mediator makes informed suggestions to you and the other person to help you problem solve and assess various proposals. The mediator will focus on maintaining a fair process so you and the other person can communicate effectively.

* In evaluative mediation, the mediator can give their opinion to you and other person about your positions. If the mediator is a lawyer, they might tell you if your suggestion does not align with the current law and predict the outcome if you took your case to court.

* In transformative mediation, the mediator attempts to help you and other person find new ways of communicating and to develop skills to work together. The mediator helps you and the other person transform your interactions from destructive to constructive.

Mediators can have a variety of backgrounds. Many come from a social work or counselling background; others are lawyers. Each background brings a different skill set and you may want to give this some consideration when choosing a mediator. For example, if you are trying to reach a resolution about what kind of parenting schedule is best for your children, you might prefer someone who has training in child development or interpersonal relationships because the law is not complicated in this area; it is to do what is in your child's best interests. However, if you are trying to sort out an issue that does involve more of a legal analysis, such as how to divide matrimonial property, it may be helpful to have a mediator with a legal...

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