Mediation: A Voluntary Process For Resolving Family Disputes

Mediation is a voluntary process where parties, with a trained neutral mediator who facilitates discussions thats helps with disputes with a view to reaching a settlement.
Discussions are conducted in a safe, nonjudgmental environment with a mediator trained with handling a wide range of situations and personalities, including high conflicts. At Foulds & Partners, we give you the opportunity to work out a resolution in direct discussions, engaging each other cooperatively toward reaching a resolution.

Why Mediate?

Ending a relationship is always challenging, particularly when children are involved and you are trying to sever complex financial ties. Mediation enables working out solutions tailored to specific needs and can be an important step toward making a positive adjustment to the post-relationship realty.
You manage the process. Rather than having lawyers speak on your behalf or a judge decide your affairs, mediation can give you larger degree of say in resolving family issues:

  • quickly
  • at lower cost
  • with reduced stress

Even when it cannot reach a final agreement, mediation can help to identify and reduce the actual issues that are in dispute.
Mediation services can minimize the harmful effects of prolonged conflict; also the need for professional help can be identified and addressed in a nonthreatening way. Another alternative resolution method is the collaborative family law process.

Will Mediation Work For Me?

For mediation services to work, consider these factors:
Are you willing to work out a solution with the other party?
Negotiation generally involves face to face exchanges. In some cases parties may be separated with the mediator shuttling back and forth. But whether in face to face or shuttle mode, in all cases, parties are involved in finding solutions. Difficult discussions are typical for the process so motivation in finding a solution as well as a commitment to the process is critical for developing a fair solution.
Do you feel safe to meet with the other party for discussing the issues?
Parties go through an initial screening process prior to starting mediation services to identify factors or triggers that could impact negatively on achieving a successful outcome. One such area is if the relationship has experienced domestic violence or abuse; another could be a high-conflict relationship. These factors may not militate against mediation being a suitable process, but measures may have to be designed so that all parties feel equally comfortable in participating fully.
Can you communicate your needs and, at the same time, can you listen to the other party’s concerns?
Mediation focuses on interests, not positions. The clearer each party can speak about their needs, the more the mediation can facilitate the move toward a solution.

What Do I Look For In A Mediator?

Generally a family mediator should have experience working with family related issues. Family problems have their own special dynamic. Family mediators come from a variety of backgrounds: mental health professionals, family lawyers, psychologists and financial professionals. Who you select will very much depend on what issue is the topic under discussion: custody, access or parenting plans, financial issues or some other specific legal issue. Issues may be split so the mediator most suited to mediating the conversation is selected, e.g. parenting issues might be dealt with by a mediator with a background in social work or psychology and financial issues mediated with a family lawyer or financial professional.
While a mediator does not have to be certified, an increasing number are which means they are expected to comply with professional standards that which cover their training, the conduct of mediation, continuing education and compliance with professional ethics and codes of behaviour. You should speak with your mediator to get a feel about their background, training and experience.
Aside from the professional qualifications and experience, you need to have a comfort level with the person you select. Each mediator has his or her own style, but generally they will fall between the facilitative and evaluative approaches.
The mediator is principally a party that helps you and your partner discuss and forge a solution that works for you. But the facilitative approach focuses more on helping facilitate the discussion whereas the evaluative focuses on helping parties evaluate the best alternatives to negotiated agreements. But whatever the approach, the mediator controls process, he or she does not decide issues for you. So ultimately, it is essential you have confidence in the mediator as a guide to get you where you want to go: a final agreement you are comfortable to live with.

Do I Need A Family Lawyer?

You do not have to have a family lawyer to go to mediation. It is highly recommended you speak with a lawyer at minimum before you start mediation and at the end before you sign any agreement.
You will not sign an agreement with your mediator. The mediator, if a family lawyer, may prepare an agreement but each party will take that draft agreement to their own lawyer for advice. If mediation produces a memorandum of understanding, setting out the points of agreement, you will take this to a lawyer for review and independent legal advice.
Besides these basic two times, you are free to consult a lawyer whenever you feel the need. When it is clear there is an information gap, the mediator will recommend getting professional advice. The mediator can give general information and, if a lawyer, general legal information, but the mediator does not advise either party what may be best for them. To decide that you will have to consult a lawyer who will help you evaluate whether you can accept the terms reached at the mediation. Until an actual agreement is signed, the terms and understandings reached at a mediation do not make up the final agreement.

Contact Our Mediator — James Foulds

For further information about mediation, the process and whether it may assist you to resolve your separation without court, feel free to give us a call or email us for an appointment. Through mediation, we have helped families in the New Brunswick Area for over two decades.
James Foulds is an accredited mediator with the New Brunswick Association for Family Mediators (OAFM) with year of experience assisting families resolve differences in all areas of family law without court.

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