Essential Guide to Alberta Divorce Mediation & Arbitration

Calgary Divorce Mediation & ArbitrationFacing a divorce means you have a journey ahead, but it doesn’t necessarily mean that you’ll end up in court. If you and your divorcing spouse are not able to hammer out terms that you can both agree to – with the guidance of your respective Alberta family lawyers – there are other options available to you in the form of divorce mediation and arbitration. These are forms of alternative dispute resolution (ADR), which can be very powerful tools that help couples find a middle ground when they’d previously been unable to do so.

What Can You Expect and What Is Expected at Mediation in Alberta?

Every instance of mediation is as unique as the couple who is going through the process. There are, however, some basics that apply across the board, including:

  • You and your respective family lawyers should do the legwork regarding finding mutually acceptable dates for the mediation to take place, and one of your family lawyers should move forward with scheduling said mediation. 
  • While the timeframe can vary widely, most mediations take an average of 6 to 10 hours, which may be spread out over several sessions. As your mediation progresses, the mediator will typically have a pretty good feel for whether or not the process is moving forward in your case.
  • You should come to mediation with a predetermined mechanism for payment, which is usually split 50/50 between both parties but not always (depending upon the situation). You’ll want to work this payment out with your family lawyer prior to attending mediation. Often, you’ll be expected to pay either before the session begins or immediately after.
  • It’s important to know that your mediator cannot provide you with legal advice, which is why it’s in your best interest to retain an attorney to represent you even if you do not think your case will end up in court.
  • Everything disclosed in mediation remains completely confidential (unlike a case that goes to court).
  • The success of mediation typically hinges on both parties’ commitment to the mediation process itself, each parties’ overall level of mental health (mental health issues can severely inhibit the mediation process, which is based on a good-faith effort to find common ground), the availability of all pertinent documentation, and the mediator’s skill and ability. 
  • If you reach a satisfactory conclusion during mediation, the details will be documented in a draft that accurately reflects the agreements you have reached.

Preparing for Mediation

While it’s impossible to know exactly what will transpire during the course of your mediation, there are some important steps you can take to prepare yourself ahead of time (in addition to keeping your mind open), including:

  • Because every divorce is different, it’s important to not only bring all pertinent financial documentation with you to mediation but also to be well-versed in the information they contain. 
  • If applicable, bring all court documents and agreements with you.
  • The best path forward is to bring all financial documentation with you in a well-organized format that you can easily access. If you’re addressing other issues, such as child custody arrangements, it’s also important to bring any documents that pertain to that issue. In other words, always err on the side of over-preparation.  

What Are the Merits of Divorce Mediation or Arbitration in Alberta?

For many divorcing spouses, mediation and arbitration offer significant benefits over going to court. Perhaps most notably, both offer a far more streamlined process and generally require less time and money than litigating a divorce. Further, the results are driven by you and your divorcing spouse’s decision-making abilities – you won’t need to abdicate this power to the court. Additional merits associated with ADR include:

  • If your case goes to court, you will know neither who your Justice is nor whether he or she will allow your case the careful consideration it deserves. Whereas, in mediation, you can choose your arbitrator, who will typically be a senior-level family lawyer.
  • By choosing your own arbitrator, you can avoid being assigned a judge with known biases. Additionally, in the mediation/arbitration process, there is much more flexibility built in – for example, you can arrange to conduct parts of the process over the phone if meeting in person is too inconvenient. 
  • Judges are generalists, and they have no special training or special skills in the area of dispute resolution, whereas an experienced arbitrator specializes in resolving disputes such as yours. 
  • Arbitrators are motivated to provide excellent arbitration services in order to help the parties involved but also in order to help promote their own arbitration services. While a judge is obviously motivated to uphold the law, he or she faces time constraints and formalities that an arbitrator simply does not, and a judge has no motivation to generate repeat business. 
  • Experienced arbitrators know the law involved and will quickly get up to speed regarding the arguments each of you brings to the table. This means your respective lawyers won’t need to lay everything out – item by item – thus saving time and legal fees.
  • Moving through the court system is a far more arduous and complicated process that can take many twists and turns. 
  • Going to court is generally far more expensive.
  • Your mediation or arbitration can be set up as simply or as elaborately as is necessary to effectively deal with the issues and complexities inherent to your divorce. 

What Are the Rules of Mediation?

Mediation is a fairly open forum, but there are specific rules that help keep the process moving forward as effectively and efficiently as possible. These golden rules include:

  • Only one person may speak at a time.
  • Each party is expected to focus on potential solutions – and not on the other party.
  • Each party does well to remember that mediation is about problem-solving and is not about advocating solely for one’s best interests.
  • Once the paperwork is signed, any agreements reached in mediation are binding.
  • Both parties are entitled to ask the other party to verify any information proffered.
  • Both parties are required to enter mediation with the understanding that, without compromise, an agreement will not be reached.
  • It’s important to note that mediation only proceeds as quickly as the slowest party involved in the process.
  • The mediator cannot and will not make decisions for you, but he or she will strive to help you and your divorcing spouse reach an agreement. 
  • Any issues involving your children that are addressed in mediation must be approached from the perspective of their best interests (the best interests test). 

What Are the Benefits of Mediation with Jennings Family Law? 

The lawyers at Jennings Family Law focus on providing representation and counsel that is caring, respectful, and solution-oriented. Family law issues tend to be complicated, and resolving them requires experience, skill, and nuanced legal guidance. The benefits of seeking mediation through our firm are numerous and include: 

  • We help those most affected by the issue at hand-build their own solutions, thus fostering individualized resolutions for individuals.
  • We break the mediation process down into manageable and prioritized segments that help you better understand the complicated issues at hand.
  • We believe in building flexibility into the mediation process in an effort to foster more creative, individualized solutions. 
  • We focus on relationship building within the mediation process. Mediation isn’t about the parties jostling for position but, instead, is about making connections that help establish trust. 
  • We believe in better living through consensus. When mediation focuses on finding solutions that are borne of consensus, the result is more durable agreements. 

We’re here to help, so please don’t hesitate to contact or call us at 403-316-0138 for more information today.