I was invited by a friend to attend a get together this evening hosted by Lawyer Locate. Among the attendees were a number of lawyer bloggers, the most notable being my friend Megan Connolly. Megan has had great success with her blog on LexBlog www.torontoestatemonitor.com. Her blog has been referred to by other legal bloggers and she was even interviewed for a legal magazine. Megan has inspired me to blog more often. (She blogs three times a week!) She had some great ideas about what I can blog about, particularly in my area of speciality: family law. So stay tuned as I implement those great ideas.
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Solace Settlement Services is dedicated to helping clients find solace by resolving their family law issues out of court. Founder Michelle Roy assists clients to reach creative resolutions of their family law issues that best meet their goals and concerns through settlement negotiation and mediation. She also provides arbitration and domestic violence screening services.
Mediation allows you to be more in control of the outcome. Going to court and relying on a judge to your settle the family law is a crap shoot. I have walked into court for a motion fully expecting to get result A and wound up getting result D which was never even on the table, leaving both my client and myself bewildered.
I encourage you to ask any questions you may have about the family mediation process and why you should consider mediating the family law issues that arose after you and your spouse separated.
For the next 10 days, I am going to be publishing 10 reasons why you should consider mediation rather than going to court to resolve the family law issues that arose after you and your spouse separated. Here is the first reason:
As you and your spouse mutually agree to mediate your issues, you can have more confidence that your spouse is negotiating in good faith and equally wants to resolve your issues. If you are able to communicate effectively with each other during the mediation process, you are more likely to be able to effectively communicate and resolve future issues and disputes.
Mediation is a process whereby spouses voluntarily and jointly retain an impartial, professionally trained mediator (often an experienced Family Law lawyer) to assist them in resolving their disputed Family Law issues. The mediator’s role is to act as a facilitator, to help the spouses reach a fair and mutually acceptable agreement.
The mediator can’t provide an opinion, take sides, or make decisions for the spouses. It’s also not the mediator’s role to give legal advice.
Before mediation begins, the spouses must decide whether the mediation will be open or closed. In open mediation, the mediator may be asked by either spouse to write a full report on what happened during the mediation, including the reasons why it was or was not successful. If the mediation isn’t successful and the case proceeds to a court trial, the report may be taken into consideration by the trial judge. In addition, the mediator could be required by either spouse to testify in court.
In closed mediation, the information exchanged between the spouses is kept confidential.
The mediator’s report will only state whether an agreement was reached. Neither spouse can request that the mediator testify in court.
Often the mediator will meet with both spouses together just to hear each spouse’s positions on the disputed issues. When the parties are ready to begin negotiating but where there is hostility between the spouses, he or she will separate the spouses into different rooms. The mediator can then shuttle between the two spouses to negotiate an agreement. Parties who are unhappy with the mediation process can leave it at any time. It won’t affect your legal rights or options.
At the conclusion of a successful mediation, the terms of the settlement must be put into writing and signed at the mediation.
These terms can subsequently be incorporated into a formal Separation Agreement. Mediators are required to advise and encourage clients to seek Independent Legal Advice before finalizing any binding agreement.
Mediation is voluntary and isn’t appropriate for everyone, particularly in cases where there has been a history of violence or abuse. Where one party is afraid of or intimidated by their spouse/partner, mediation will likely not be a viable option.
In order to ensure that cases are appropriate for mediation, mediators are required to screen their clients to ensure that:
- abuse hasn’t occurred that has rendered either party incapable of mediating
- no harm will come to either party or the children as a result of mediating
- the parties’ desire to mediate is voluntary
- any inequality in bargaining power can be managed so as to ensure that negotiations are balanced and procedurally fair
- parties are psychologically ready to mediate and have the capacity to do so
- the complexity of the case doesn’t exceed the mediator’s education, training, and competence
I can’t profess to be a Family Law lawyer with 25 years of experience. But I have been practicing Family Law long enough to know that going to court and relying on a judge to settle the issues that arise when you and your spouse separate is quite frankly a crap shoot. I have walked into court for a motion fully expecting to get result A and wind up getting result D which was never even on the table, leaving both my client and I in a state of bewilderment.
Not only is using the court system to resolve your family law disputes unpredictable, it is also extremely expensive, tedious and emotionally taxing.
In my view, it is always best for everyone involved, especially your children, if you and your spouse are able to reach an amicable settlement of your issues. However, reaching a settlement is not always easy: it involves compromise, cost factor analysis, letting go of what are often extremely negative opinions about your soon to be ex-spouse and taking off your boxing gloves.
I feel that I have a forte for helping my clients settle their family law cases, even the difficult and high conflict ones. I believe the key to my success is always assessing the strengths and the weaknesses of both my client’s case and the case of his or her spouse. I am always open, honest and realistic with my clients about their strengths and weakness and avoid misleading my clients into having unrealistic expectations. In addition, I always consider the big picture and the long term effects of a settlement.
So if you want to find solace in reaching a settlement of your Family Law issues after you separate from your spouse, I encourage you to contact me to schedule a consultation. I can be reached at 416-488-9705 or by e-mail at email@example.com.