The topics in the Dial-A-Law series provide general information on legal issues within the Province of Alberta. The purpose of this topic is to inform you of your legal rights and responsibilities. This is not legal advice. If you require legal advice, you should contact a lawyer.
This topic will discuss divorce mediation.
Mediation is a form of negotiation to resolve family matters regarding children, property, and financial support of a spouse and children. Mediation is the preferred method of making decisions in a divorce matter. You and your spouse will discuss what you want and attempt to resolve your differences. All decisions that are agreed to will be your own.
In Canada, lawyers must inform their clients that divorce mediation services are available to assist in settling family matters and in reaching a reasonable agreement. Divorce mediation may not be suitable for all divorcing couples; however, the costs of mediation are less than if you and your spouse paid for a lawyer to represent you in Court.
To assist with the mediation process, a mediator sits with you and your spouse at the table. The mediator is not a marriage counsellor. The mediator provides an avenue of communication between you for each of the family matters that must be determined.
The mediator is often a social worker, psychologist, lawyer, or other professional. Their role is to be neutral. This means that they cannot side with you or your spouse. They do not decide what is right or wrong between you and your spouse. The mediator must tell before you begin that you or your spouse may end the mediation at any time.
The mediator must keep the negotiations confidential. They will ask that you and your spouse do the same, unless either of you need to consult with your lawyers.
The mediator will start the mediation only after you and your spouse agree to mediation. If you contact a mediator, the mediator will ask your spouse to confirm that they are entering willingly into the mediation. The mediator will also ask whether you or your spouse wish to have your lawyers assist with the legal aspects of custody, access, and maintenance and property division.
The Process of the Mediation
The mediator will describe the process of mediation. The mediator controls the process of the discussions and you and your spouse control what is to be discussed. The process is the order and the time at which the topics are to be discussed. For example, there may be only one or two topics discussed per session.
The mediator will first deal with any emergency conflicts between you and your spouse. For example, if you deny your spouse access to the child because they not paying enough children support, the mediator will attempt to resolve this conflict first.
Topics Discussed in the Mediation
Topics can include the financial situations of both spouses. You and your spouse must provide full and honest information about your financial situation. Some homework may be required so that an accurate report can be provided. In another session, the topic of property division may be discussed. Other sessions may then deal with the children, who the children will live with, child support, decision making for the children, and the visiting rights of the other parent. The mediator will encourage you and your spouse to make decisions that suit your needs.
Mediation requires compromise. You and your spouse must be willing to mediate without quarrelling and difficulty. If there is no agreement between you and your spouse after mediation, the decision-making becomes much more expensive and stressful. You will no longer have the power to make the decisions yourself. You would need to consult with a lawyer for your Court appearance where the Court would make the decisions for you concerning your family matters.
Cost of Mediation
The cost of mediation may be shared between the spouses equally, or otherwise. Generally, both spouses contribute to the mediation cost if the spouses are doing the negotiating themselves without lawyers. Some mediators will consider your financial situation in determining their fees. Ask the mediator to reduce their fees if you are having financial difficulties.
Finding a Mediator
You may obtain a list of mediators from the Alberta Family Mediation Society (http://www.afms.ca). Also check with the various Family Services organizations in your community. In Calgary and surrounding areas, there is access to the Mediation Services, operated by Alberta Family Justice Services
Dial-A-Law is a Calgary Legal Guidance public service project funded in part by the Alberta Law Foundation.