Why would I choose mediation to resolve a family dispute?

Mediation is a good choice when there is a family dispute because the parties are in the presence of a neutral and trained professional helping the parties negotiate their needs and interests.

Unresolved conflict is not healthy for children. Mediation can help improve the channels of communication and works to keep the relationships healthy, for the sake of the children.

What should I look for when choosing a Family Mediator?

The selection of a mediator is very important. A mediator is not vested with the legal authority of a judge or arbitrator and must rely on his or her own resources.

To effectively mediate a dispute, a mediator must possess a combination of qualifications.

  • absolutely impartial and fair
  • trustworthy
  • able to encourage people to talk about the problem in depth
  • understand the participants’ motivations
  • a good listener
  • able to analyze complex problems and get to the core
  • a problem solver
  • articulate with good communication skills
  • flexible and patient
  • a person who can guide others to make things happen

What happens in mediation?

  • Each party meets with the mediator separately; these are called pre-mediation meetings. Pre-mediation meetings may be done over the phone.
  • These meetings:

    • give you an opportunity to tell the mediator what is going on and what you want to see happen
    • give the mediator a chance to ask questions and get an idea of what the whole picture looks like
    • are confidential and private
    • provides an opportunity to bring any important documentation for the mediator to view (agreements, court orders, notice of assessments, etc)

  • A mediation is scheduled when all parties to the mediation are able to meet face to face. If being in the same room is not an option, a shuttle mediation may be scheduled. In shuttle mediation each party is in a separate room and the mediator goes back and forth between rooms.
  • If you have a lawyer, she or he is welcome to attend mediation with you.
  • At mediation, the mediator will encourage each party to talk about the issues with the other party. This is done in a structured environment emphasizing respect and honesty.

How do I talk and listen during mediation?

  • One person talks at a time, you will be asked to wait your turn to talk.

    The mediator's job is to make sure everyone gets a chance to talk. You will have a chance to say what you need or want.

  • When it is your time to talk.

    Focus on the issues you believe are important. Avoid using blaming language.

  • Try to keep calm 

    People will hear and understand you better if you stay composed. This can be difficult at times. If emotions are getting hard to control, ask the mediator for a short break.

  • Listen carefully 

    This is your chance to understand what the other party is upset about.

  • Ask questions

    If you don't understand something, wait until the person speaking has finished and then ask a question. If you are worried you will forget your question, write it down.

What happens if a dispute settles at mediation?

Once settlement is reached, a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) will be prepared and sent to all parties after the final mediation session. Each party takes this document to a lawyer who will provide their legal opinion or/and advice. If all looks good, then one lawyer will draw up the legal agreement. The parties decide which lawyer.

What happens if a dispute does not settle at mediation?

The goal of mediation is for the parties to finish the mediation with all their differences resolved, which happens in many cases. If agreement is not achieved, the parties are free to pursue other means of resolving their dispute which may include court or other possibilities depending on the circumstances of the case.

Who pays for mediation?

Most mediators charge either by the hour or flat rates. Typically the cost is split 50-50 between the parties, unless they agree differently.

Generally, the cost of a successful mediation will be less than the cost of going to court.

Costs vary, depending on such things as:

  • how many parties are involved
  • the complexity of the issues under discussion
  • the qualifications and experience of the mediator
  • the number of sessions
  • whether lawyers are participating in the mediation

Some of the things mediators are paid or reimbursed for include:

  • time spent in pre-mediation sessions with each party
  • time spent in mediation sessions
  • travel time to and from mediation, if out of town
  • rental of a mediation room (if needed)

Will I still need a lawyer?

Mediators provide legal information, not legal advice.

You do not need a lawyer before mediation commences but obtaining independent legal advice before final agreement is reached is strongly encouraged.

All the work, negotiations, exploring of issues and fruitful communication is done in mediation – where you decide what works for each of you and your family.

After both parties agree on the terms of the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU), this document can be given to a lawyer of your choice and a separation agreement can be prepared.

If you need a lawyer for independent legal advice or for reviewing the MOU or to take on some or all of your case, please ask me for a list of lawyers that offer unbundled legal services, also known as limited scope representation.

What is unbundled legal services or limited scope representation?

A lawyer providing unbundled legal services works and charges you for those specific tasks that you agree to in advance. The advantage is that you decide in the beginning what responsibilities will be yours to carry out and which will be your lawyer’s. Your case is broken down into tasks and you chose which tasks you want help with and which you will handle on your own.

For example, if you are resolving your dispute through mediation, an unbundled lawyer can provide legal advice during or after mediation or turn the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) into a binding agreement.

Unbundled legal services are a an affordable way to help separating or divorcing families manage their finances.

Child Support - Who is a parent for the purpose of monthly child support in BC

The BC Family Law Act states that a parent includes:

  • the natural parent of the child
  • the guardian(s) of the child
  • the child(ren)’s step-parent

This means if you were a step-parent for a child and later separated from your spouse, you may have to pay monthly child support in BC.

The Family Law Act says that the primary responsibility to pay child support is the responsibility of the natural parent. Your monthly child support in BC does not end because the other parent remarries.

Click here to calculate your monthly support payments.

What is family property and how is it divided in BC?

Family property is everything either of you own together or separately ON THE DATE YOU SEPARATE. This includes the family home, RRSPs, bank accounts, pensions, insurance policies, investments, etc. It does not matter whose name the property is in.

Any property either of you owned before you got together is not considered family property. This is called excluded property. Excluded property is not divided up between you UNLESS the value in the excluded property has increased, then the increase in value is split evenly.

Excluded property also includes any gifts and inheritances received by one spouse. See Section 85 of the Family Law Act for a list of what is considered excluded property.

What is family debt?

Family debt includes all debts either spouse took on during the relationship. This includes credit card debt, loans from family members, mortgages, bank lines of credits, etc.

Family debt also includes debts taken on after separation if the money was spent to take care of family property.

It does not matter if the name is in one spouse’s name – both spouses are equally responsible for family debt. This applies to couples who are married or living in a ‘marriage like relationship. See Section 86 of the Family Law Act for more on family debt.

What is a spouse under the Family Law Act?

3 (1) A person is a spouse for the purposes of this Act if the person

(a) is married to another person, or

(b) has lived with another person in a marriage-like relationship, and

(i) has done so for a continuous period of at least 2 years, or

(ii) except in Parts 5 [Property Division] and 6 [Pension Division], has a child with the other person., or

(2) A spouse includes a former spouse

(3) A relationship between spouses begins on the earlier of the following:

(a) the date on which they began to live together in a marriage-like relationship;

(b) the date of their marriage

(4) For the purposes of this Act,

(a) spouses may be separated despite continuing to live in the same residence, and

(b) the court may consider, as evidence of separation,

(i) communication, by one spouse to the other spouse, of an intention to separate permanently, and

(ii) an action, taken by a spouse, that demonstrates the spouse's intention to separate permanently.

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