Divorce mediation can be a smart alternative to litigation

On behalf of Gary Kirk of Kirk Montoute Dawson LLP posted in Divorce Mediation on Wednesday, May 4, 2016.

In many Alberta divorces, the spouses are able to reach a settlement agreement resolving their legal issues like property division, spousal and child support, and child custody with the assistance of a neutral third party in a negotiation process called mediation. Mediation is an alternative dispute-resolution process to traditional divorce in which the parties — and not the judge — decide what the arrangements between them and their children will be after the marriage ends. 

The mediator does not take sides; rather he or she facilitates communication between the parties, helping them through impasses toward resolution. The mediation process is conducted through a series of working negotiation sessions. The parties agree to voluntarily and honestly disclose information about money, income and assets to the other and also to keep the process confidential. 

Mediation can be less expensive than courtroom litigation in divorce if the parties are committed to making progress in negotiation, which inevitably involves compromise and creative decision making. 

Anyone in Alberta facing divorce should discuss with a lawyer whether mediation or another process like arbitration or traditional litigation is likely to be the smart choice considering the particular circumstances of the couple. For example, mediation may not be a good idea if there is a history of abuse, controlling behavior or dishonesty on the part of the other spouse. 

Although a divorcing person can go through mediation without legal representation, it is a good idea to engage a lawyer to provide his or her client with ongoing advice about the legal issues under consideration. A more informed decision can be made in mediation when the participant understands what Alberta or federal law says about the issues at hand. 

It is also smart to find a mediator with substantial experience with Canadian matrimonial law and with skills in dispute resolution and facilitation of communication through conflict and emotion.

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