Best Vancouver family mediation tips help you, your spouse and your children obtain a successful resolution to your family law challenges. Our top-rated BC and Calgary family lawyers negotiate, mediate, or litigate family law matters to a resolution.
Divorce and separation can be difficult enough, even without lawyers’ fees and the risks of an adversarial court proceeding and trial in front of a judge. Fortunately, we now have requirements in BC legislation, that both lawyers and spouses must at least consider alternatives to court, including for Family Mediation in BC.
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Spouses going through divorce and separation may wonder what Family Mediation in BC is and whether it is appropriate for them. In this blog, senior associate Jonathan Wai of MacLean Family Law explains what Family Mediation in BC is, provides his Best Vancouver Family Mediation Tips and then tells you why it may be a benefit in your family case.
Simply put, mediation is a private, off-the-record meeting with a qualified mediator, who helps the parties communicate and ultimately discuss settlement. If one is reached, the costs and risks of court are avoided. It can occur before court action is filed, or even when court action is in progress with a trial date set. Parties may attend themselves, or with lawyers.
Best Vancouver Family Mediation Tips – Good Success Rate
Many studies have shown since at least the 1980s that mediation has a good success rate of settling, with people also reporting they feel better about the settlement achieved, since they were more directly involved in the process, as opposed to letting a judge decide.
You may wonder how Family Mediation in BC could work if your divorce and separation is high conflict, and both you and your former spouse appear “dug in” to your legal positions. In response, judges themselves have taken notice of how effective Family Mediation in BC can be. In the case Matsqui First Nation v. Canada (Attorney General), 2015 BCSC 1409, the court noted:
 The beauty of mediation lies in its confidentiality and flexibility. With the assistance of a skilled mediator, the parties are free to speak to each other directly and to frankly express their concerns and interests without fear of prejudicing the litigation should the matter not settle. That is to be encouraged. Empathy and apology can and often does play a powerful role. Seemingly intractable positions become less so. The legal issues framed in the pleadings frequently do not reflect the real interests or concerns motivating the litigants. Creative remedies not available to the court can be forged to bridge differences. Important relationships can be repaired.
Why Mediate Your Family Law Case?
Family Mediation in BC requires “full and true” disclosure, just as court proceedings do, under s.5(2) of the Family Law Act. The difference with mediation is that the discussions are “without prejudice”, and not usable in court later. The reason for this, as mentioned in the quote above, is to allow the parties to discuss any and all ideas, concerns, problems, solutions, that they may have, the better to explore possibilities to better understand what the other spouse is looking for, and to uncover possibilities for settlement that neither side might have thought of thus far.
The role of the mediator in all this is to be neutral. They do not take one spouses’ side or the others’. They cannot decide the case for you as a judge would. But they do their best to ensure the parties can bargain fairly on a “level playing field”, and moreover to facilitate communication between the parties about the issues they wish to discuss. If this sounds unlikely to change anything, consider that mediators for Family Mediation in BC currently must take 80 hours of training in conflict resolution to be qualified, all of which trains them to listen effectively to each spouse, identify the issues they wish to discuss, identify the spouses’ interests in each issue, and to assist a civil discussion between spouses about options for resolving the issues.
One analogy might be, if you have a dispute with your best friend, it might change both of your minds if some new information came to light, or perhaps if it were pointed out that one friend was making a reasonable assumption that was unfortunately incorrect, where the other friend was not even aware of that assumption in the first place. Family Mediation in BC cannot solve everything, but it can help resolve such disputes, often enough to settle, such that both spouses may move on.
Spouses should be aware that mediators, while they all have the above-noted training, do not necessarily approach mediation the same way. Some mediators, for example, tend to more freely offer their opinions on a particular legal issue. Some spouses may prefer that, particularly if they believe the mediator’s opinion might be in their favor. Other spouses might not prefer that at all, and might seek a mediator who tends to be more “interests-based”, namely, asking the spouses what their “interests” are, as opposed to their legal position. For example, a spouse might be more interested in “how much money will I have for my retirement after this”, which usually easier to understand than a legal position like “I will not accept less than 70/30 for unequal division”.
For those reasons, it is important to carefully select your mediator. Your lawyer, if they have used the mediator before or knows others who have done so, can assist, and we at MacLean law have experience with many mediators.
Mediation is intended to be a voluntary process and often is. It can be compelled, though, under the Notice To Mediate (Family) Regulation s.3, where one party can issue a Form 1 to the other party. As awkward as that can appear, our lawyers have both done this and seen this done, those mediations can be successful, simply because of the mediator’s skill, and the parties’ recognition that the process may be quicker and less expensive than a trial.
Mediation might not appropriate in all cases. In cases where negotiations are going well, there is no need. To the other extreme, and as in the Notice To Mediate (Family) Regulation, if there has already been a mediation, or where there is a Protection Order against one of the spouses (also known as a restraining order) or a Peace Bond, or if the mediator or a court says mediation should not happen or not proceed further, or the parties themselves both agree not to mediate, then no mediation should occur.
However, and speaking as counsel who is both a qualified mediator and who has attended many mediations as counsel, Family Mediation in BC can be a highly effective method to settle and significantly less expensive than a full trial. Even if only a partial settlement is reached, that usually means fewer lawyers’ fees and fewer issues to have to argue at court. Please let us know if we at MacLean Law can help you with your Family Mediation in BC. We trust Jonathan Wai’s Best Vancouver Family Mediation Tips have helped you get an idea on how to move forward as winners after separation.
We have offices in Vancouver, Surrey, Kelowna, Fort St. John, and Calgary to assist you.