Best Practices for Addressing Power Imbalances and Safety in Family Dispute Resolution Processes: Research, Protocols and the Law

Introduction Originally published in Ontario Family Law Reporter (33 O.F.L.R), April 2020 With courts, for now, restricting services to all but emergency matters due to COVID-19, the demand for alternative dispute resolution services is growing exponentially. The need is greater than ever to ensure that those processes put issues of power imbalance and safety of clients and children first. Private …
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Guest Blog Post: “What Have I Seen You In?”

When you tell someone that you are an actor, their immediate question is: “What have I seen you in?”. There is my usual response to the various commercials, tv, and film roles I’ve done; but what they don’t know is the impact my job as an actor has had in real life with real people. People like the participants doing mediation training with Hilary at Riverdale Mediation. This always …
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A Good Case for Family Mediators: Justice Sherr in L.B. and P. E.

As family mediators, we work “in the shadow of the law”. Our job is to help parties reach agreements that are better for them than their alternatives… meaning mediators must know what a court would do with a given situation. We also must put the interests of children first, and decline to mediate parenting outcomes that we believe will not …
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Enforcement of Agreements and Orders in a Closed PC Process

Walk softly and carry a big stick is a variation on a phrase popularized by US President Theodore Roosevelt in a 1903 speech when he said to the crowd “speak softly and carry a big stick”. In other words, attempt peaceful negotiations while also being prepared for confrontation by displaying one’s power, especially elements of force.  When I think of the …
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CBC Promotes Family Mediation!

Listening to the CBC’s recent program on family law (Ontario Morning, March 12), it became clear to me that separating parents do not always understand their dispute resolution options. Recent changes to the federal and provincial laws require all separating couples to consider trying out-of-court settlement, and many are doing just that. But it can be wildly confusing trying to …
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Identifying and Assessing Family Violence and Power Dynamics

What are the fundamental principles of ADR? What are some basic screening concepts I should know before starting mediation and/or arbitration? What are mediators looking for when assessing for risk?  Learn measures mediators use to balance power and keep parties and children safe. Alternative dispute resolution (ADR) functions with three fundamental principles: ADR is a voluntary process ADR is a …
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The Promise of Family Mediation-Arbitration: Is it Real?

The crisis in access to family law justice has led to many great things happening outside of court. Collaborative practice, for example, has grown from disenchantment with the adversarial legal system’s assumption that positional bargaining necessarily protects the interest of parents and their children. Family mediation has become the go-to solution for both the public– seeking to avoid paying lawyers– …
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How to Help Your Clients Prepare for a Negotiation – Part 2 of 4

The mediator’s first job is to assess whether the proposed negotiation is suitable for all, is feasible, and can proceed in accordance with the guiding principle of “do no harm”. In this 4-part blog series, we will explore some questions mediators can review with clients before starting a mediation: PART 2 – IDENTIFY THE TERMS OF THE NEGOTIATION PROCESS Define …
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