Understanding in Mediation: The Holy Grail in Family Law

17 July 2015

In late June, Fairway’s CEO Karen Stewart and one of our Senior Negotiators attended the Law Society of Alberta’s Family Law Secrets Exposed Super Conference. The full-day conference was loaded with information regarding new techniques to resolve complex family law problems from international leading experts, specifically understanding in mediation for family law.

From the abundance of information and discussions conducted at this conference, our Senior Negotiator Micheline Maes pulled details from what she learned to explain to the office what she believes is the biggest problem with divorcing couples using lawyers in Canada.

Getting to Know the Family

Maes reiterates that the problem stated in the conference is that most lawyers in this province do not take the time to get to know the family, therefore they do not take the time to understand the need in coming up with a fair solution.

Micheline explains that it’s not the math that drives the solution, but the underlying interests. Conflict can escalate or be sustained if we don't probe for the underlying interests.

For instance, one party insists on a different value for their house when the real issue is that they need a little bit more after-tax dollars to buy a house. So, they spend money on valuations and arguing their applicability and more legal fees all along.

Continued conflict invariably harms the children. They are not immune to the negative energy, even when the parents don’t discuss the issues around them. This raises cortisol levels. When these levels are sustained, they can harm the physical brain. This can translate into behavioral problems down the road. In extreme cases, a borderline personality disorder may emerge. Holy Grail

Maes repeats the same phrase to the office throughout her speech, stating that “fairness is the Holy Grail in family law”. Fair to Maes is a solution that respects underlying interests as they pertain to the clients and their families while minimizing wealth erosion and protecting the children.

Mediation Offers a Better Solution

Mediation is about driving resolution, not fostering conflict. Whereas litigation is about prolonging the battle to make the most in billable hours, mediation is about providing a mutually-agreed upon result for both parties.

The mediator is an unbiased party, meaning there will be no favoritism. They simply guide the process along, helping both parties to navigate the conflict. Depending on the type of mediation, some will come to a decision for the parties or will help them arrive to the conclusion on their own.

This method helps to limit the emotional damage. Mediation focuses on keeping emotions to a minimum, bringing the wants and needs of both parties to the forefront. Both parties then gain a better understanding of not only what the other party desires, but what their own desires are.

Furthermore, the costs are severely cut down as well. The average mediation session runs between $350 and $750 per hour depending on the mediator. And while that may sound like a ton, think about it in a broader sense.

For most divorces, let’s say that it takes five sessions to come to an agreement. Even at the $750/hour mark, that is $3,750. Still substantially cheaper than most litigation experiences to say the least.

But the key to proper mediation is understanding. Without it, mediation just becomes another forum for disagreement. And in the end, it becomes a waste of time.

Questions for Understanding in Mediation

She concludes her speech by explaining that understanding in mediation deals with people’s lives. It is necessary to ask these relevant questions in order to build the best resolution plan:

  • What does your future look like to you?
  • What is important to you as a parent?
  • How would you like to communicate with the other parent?
  • What is your biggest fear as we are going through this process?
  • What do you love about your partner/the other parent?
  • How are your children feeling about all this?
  • What are your desires and goals as a parent?
  • What are your feelings regarding money and financial stability?
  • Who is your support?
  • What are your financial goals and desires?
  • What is most important to you in this process?
  • Why does fairness matter and what does it mean to you?

Fairway Can Help Provide Clarification on Understanding in Mediation

If you are currently going through a divorce or see it on the horizon, there are a million questions no doubt going through your mind. One of the first steps to take is to explore the possibility of mediation.

Fairway is one of the premier mediation firms in Canada. We have helped successfully mediate hundreds of divorces, delivering better results for both parties. That means moving forward and taking the next step in life rather than digging in and prolonging a battle no one wants.

Taking the steps towards understanding is easier said than done. But with the right guide in your corner, you can take steps towards effective conflict resolution.