Mediation Of Family Law Disputes In British Columbia

Resolving family law disputes is often a delicate and lengthy process, and spouses are sometimes unable to come to an agreement no matter how hard they try. Court action is the traditional way that these differences have been resolved, but the outcome of these proceedings is uncertain and the legal bills associated with them can be high. However, mediation is another solution available to couples in British Columbia involving a third party who has been trained to help resolve family law conflicts.

While a judge may impose a solution, the goal of a mediator is to help spouses air their concerns and resolve their differences through discussion. While mediators are often lawyers, they are not permitted to give legal advice. For mediation to be successful, it has to perceived as being fair. Mediators are therefore expected to remain neutral at all times. Mediation is also likely to be far less costly than litigation, and mediation services are available from Legal Aid BC for British Columbia residents who qualify.

While mediation is a way to resolve family law disputes amicably, a spouse cannot usually be compelled to attend. However, the rules are different when a family law case has been started in Supreme Court. In this situation, a spouse can be served with a Notice to Mediate compelling them to attend mediation sessions.

An experienced family law lawyer will likely understand how difficult it can be to avoid conflict when addressing the potentially thorny issues of property division, child custody and spousal support, and the lawyer may recommend mediation as a way to reach an amicable settlement. Divorce is often emotionally draining, and a neutral third party may provide valuable reassurance.

The Family Law Act and Unmarried Couples in British Columbia

Unmarried couples who live together or lived together for a substantial amount of time are subject to many of the terms contained in the Family Law Act. For instance, those who lived together and thought of themselves as a couple are subject to property division laws if they were together for more than two years. Unmarried couples who lived together and had a child together could be impacted by child and spousal support laws regardless of how long the relationship lasted.

The reason why child support could be awarded after any length of time together has to do with the interdependence between the parents. Property division laws exist solely to ensure that any assets accumulated during a relationship are properly accounted for and divided between the couple. In most other legal matters, common-law couples are treated as married couples. For instance, they generally get the same tax treatment and the same rights of inheritance.

Currently, the number of common-law families in British Columbia are growing at a rate much faster than the number of married couples. Therefore, the law has evolved to recognize that couples who act as a family are treated as such even if they don’t formally marry. Those who are part of a common-law relationship and wish to end that relationship may wish to talk to a lawyer about their rights and obligations under the law.

In a collaborative law setting, the goal for both parties is to work together to come to a settlement that benefits both parties as well as their children. This may make it easier to maintain a civil relationship in the future, which may be in the best interests of the couple’s children. It may also lead to a resolution of the case in less time.

Collaborative Divorce Offers a Better Option

Most of us have probably heard of or know someone who has been involved in a “nasty” divorce: a divorce where both spouses are out to see who gets the best of the other one, Some of these divorces even start out on a fairly even keel, and then turn sour throughout the process. Once a conflict starts, it can grow from a molehill into a mountain; these situations rarely end well. They can become expensive and if children are involved, they often end up in the middle of some very unhealthy relationships.

If you are considering a divorce, there is a better option. You can opt for a “collaborative divorce.” A collaborative divorce is not only less stressful for all parties involved — including children — but it’s also less expensive, as it avoids expensive court costs.

The goal of a collaborative divorce is for the parties to work together with attorneys, mediators, arbitrators and other needed professionals to come to a resolution outside of the courtroom. A professional team works with individuals to negotiate the unique circumstances of each family in a positive way.

Many attorneys now practice this type of collaborative family law, which interestingly enough, stemmed from a discouraged family attorney who became tired of the adversarial process and decided to do something different. He began working with families outside of the court system to resolve their disputes in a respectful and dignified matter.

At the same time, another group of professionals, which included psychologists, financial planners and social workers, were working on similar goals for divorcing spouses. These two new methods integrated in the mid-1990s. Collaborative Practice was coined as the term that covered both Collaborative Law and Collaborative Divorce. In British Columbia, this might also be referred to as an ADR, or an “alternative dispute resolution.”

A separation or divorce is hardly ever painless, but the process used to get through one can make a huge difference in the outcome. In a collaborative divorce, a divorce is far more likely to end amicably, and the children involved are less likely to be damaged in the process.

Source:, “Collaborative Practice; Putting Families First,” Susan Gamache, accessed April 15, 2015