Is mediation right for your family law matter?
If you are dealing with a separation, you may have been told that mediation and alternative dispute resolution is better than litigation. Many lawyers and mediators believe that mediation produces better results for separating couples and their kids and that it saves time and money. In a recent survey by the Canadian Forum on Civil Justice of family lawyers in Ontario, 89 percent of respondents indicated they used mediation to resolve family law disputes. Further, studies consistently show that couples are more satisfied with the results of mediation than they are with the results of litigation.
The statement that family mediation is better than family litigation is usually followed by the caveat that mediation is not for everyone, particularly where domestic violence or abuse is an issue. However, violence and abuse are not the only red flags for mediation. If you are considering mediation, you should be on the lookout for any dynamic that might create a power imbalance. A family law mediation can result in dramatic changes to the things that you value most – your children, your property, and your ability to make money. If you think there is any chance that you could be at a disadvantage in a mediation, you should consult with a lawyer and explore your options, including, where necessary, going to court.
It is also important to think strategically about whether the benefits of mediation will apply in your case. Yes, mediation can save time and money, but not always. Some alternative dispute resolution processes drag on for years, only to end up in court after thousands of dollars have been spent on mediators and legal fees. If you think that the opposing party is unlikely to compromise or sees the mediation process as a means to bully and intimidate, it may be to your strategic advantage to proceed to litigation, immediately.
The family court process is often maligned as expensive, bureaucratic, and inefficient. However, its worth remembering that in Ontario, we benefit from a world-class family law system that is staffed by competent and trustworthy professionals who deal with thousands of family law cases each year. Ontario judges are highly trained and take their responsibilities seriously. While our family court system does take time and can be difficult to navigate, it is designed to protect individual rights, promote fairness, and most importantly, protect the best interests of children.
The decision whether to mediate or litigate involves a careful balancing of numerous factors. Ultimately, the choice should be based on a careful consideration of what will be best for your family in the long-term. Please contact Purves-Smith Law for a free consultation to determine if mediation is suited to your family’s needs.