In recent years there has been a growing push to encourage spouses to resolve their family litigation through mediation rather than through the traditional – adversarial and public – court process. While the court system can be effective, it is also expensive and time-consuming, can cause spouses to become even more entrenched in their positions, and worsen their already strained relationship with one another.
An alternative is to hire a mediator. According to the MediateBC website, over 80% of families who use their family mediation services successfully resolve many of their legal issues.
The lawyers at Fleetwood Family Law are experienced in mediation, and of course, if you and your spouse are able and willing to compromise, we are more than ready to assist. Our lawyers are familiar with both the MediateBC mediation roster, and we frequently assist our clients to hire the top private mediators in the lower mainland.
MediateBC’s new video, “Once Upon a Fairy Tale” describes their mediation services in the idealized setting of knights and princesses and happy endings.
But separations and divorces aren’t fairy tales. If you and your spouse are not particularly amicable, or if one or both of you are unwilling to compromise on a key issue, then mediation is a waste of your time and money. Take for example the issue of parenting time. You have been an active parent throughout the marriage, and want to share parenting time equally. Your spouse, on the other hand only wants you to see the kids on alternate weekends. You both file your court pleadings, letters between lawyers get sent back and forth, you make no progress at your Judicial Case Conference, after many months your spouse has still not budged from her original position, and a 5-day trial is set for next month. Do you really think mediation (which is non-binding) would be productive at this point? If you could have reached a compromise, don’t you think it would have happened by now? Unlike in fairy tales, mediators are not magical wizards. If you and your spouse are not able to agree on a key issue, you will need to rely on the (decidedly non-magical) powers of the court.
Some things to consider:
- The cost of most mediators runs between $250 to $500 per hour. A typical mediation will run five or more hours. You and your spouse will be required to share the costs of the mediator’s fees, while at the same time paying your lawyers their hourly rates as well. If a settlement is not reached, that is money out the door.
- Sometimes your spouse will serve you with what is called a “Notice to Mediate” requiring you to attend (and pay your share of) mediation. This is not necessarily a bad thing if compromise is possible, but what if it’s not? Is your spouse using a last minute Notice to Mediate as a means to try to get an adjournment of your upcoming trial or pending court appearance? Maybe your spouse has access to more disposable income and is trying to force you to take on unnecessary expenses he or she knows you cannot afford, hoping you’ll exhaust your savings and settle on his/her terms.
- What if there is a power imbalance in the relationship? Are you intimidated by your spouse? Did you have trouble asserting yourself during the relationship? Your spouse may be hoping to bully you into agreeing to his or her terms in front of the mediator.
- Is there a history of family violence? Are you able to meet and negotiate with your spouse and still feel safe?
To be clear, if you are in the fortunate position to be able to mediate with your spouse, congratulations! You will save time, stress, and money and may be end up better off than had you engaged in a contested legal battle from the start. You may resolve some or most of your issues by working with a mediation advocate and a neutral mediator. If you are certain you have received full disclosure, and you are on friendly terms, you might be so fortunate as to not even need to hire a lawyer!
Unfortunately, many of the people who come to Fleetwood Family Law fall outside Mediate BC’s 80% success rate on the issues that are most important to them. They need the reliable and sound professional expertise our lawyers provide. Book an appointment with us to discuss whether mediation is a good for your particular situation. We will do everything we can to make sure you “live happily ever after”.