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 navigate the processes for court, mediation, arbitration in family law.
But it is important that the people and the process are a good fit.
Ayesha Hussain, a family lawyer featured in the program, explains that successful dispute resolution takes two parties who are willing to negotiate.
Callers to the program told their horror stories, illustrating the many challenges families face when they do not understand the differences among the dispute resolution options they have.
One caller (at about 19 minutes into the broadcast) lamented that they tried mediation but did not realize that it is confidential—meaning that the court could not be told about what happened in the mediation.
Confidentiality is actually one of the most valuable features of mediation—it creates a safe place for people to have honest and difficult conversations. But if a parent is looking for a process that creates a report to the court— confidential mediation is not the right process for them.
Another caller (at 15 minutes in) explained the high risks parents take when they agree to private arbitration, including not knowing the prior decisions of the arbitrator and the high cost. Again, family arbitration can be an effective process—but the clients should be fully screened before they sign up to ensure they are the right candidates for this process. Indeed, as Ayesha explains, binding arbitration can bring about closure quickly and affordably in the right cases.
With government-subsidized mediation services across Ontario, we are fortunate to have access to appropriate and affordable mediation.
Giving a shout-out to Toronto Family Mediation Services (mediate393), Ayesha explains these services at 33 minutes into the broadcast, particularly noting how helpful a mediator can be if they understand the cultural circumstances and needs of the parents. At 36 minutes in there is a good news story about how effective mediation can be. Ayesha speaks about the importance of screening for power imbalances and family violence to be sure parents can effectively mediate.
For a good overview of the process options for separating parents to consider, listen to the full recording here.