Family lawyers in Ontario overwhelmingly prefer to use mediation to resolve disputes between separating couples, says a Canadian Forum on Civil Justice survey. Mediation is often less expensive, faster, and less contentious for couples working their way through a separation or divorce. The Canadian Research Institute for the Law and the Family surveyed 160 lawyers in Alberta, British Columbia, Nova Scotia and Ontario about family dispute resolution. They found over 89 per cent of Ontario lawyers used mediation to resolve family law disputes. This was more than in any other province.
How mediation works
Mediation lets couples sit down together without much of the animosity litigation can cause. Court documents describe each person’s grievances in detail, usually feeding any bitterness between them.
However, working with a mediator, couples control the mediation method. This helps reduce animosity.
Family mediation can take time to reach agreement. But mediation often still resolves family disputes far faster than litigation does. The survey found that
- Low-conflict cases take 4.8 months to resolve through mediation, but 10.8 months to resolve through litigation;
- High-conflict cases take 13.7 months to settle through mediation, but 22.7 months to resolve in court
Couples were generally more satisfied with the results of mediation than with litigated settlements. This is likely because they felt more in control of the process. Mediation also allows couples to find more creative solutions to disputes than courts may permit.
Mediation - not always for everyone
Still, not every couple can use mediation.
Some couples simply don’t trust each other anymore. So much distrust makes it nearly impossible for a mediator to find common ground between the two parties.
If one partner has abused the other, mediation is also not a good idea. The abused partner may be too afraid to make the best decisions for themselves. For these people, other methods are fairer and safer.
For many Ontario lawyers, mediation has become a more effective way of resolving family disputes than other methods. For many couples, the mediation process can be quicker, give them a greater sense of control over their destiny, and may even prove to be less expensive than litigation.