Family Mediation: In the Best Interests of the Child

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My name is Debra Shapiro. I am a family lawyer and family mediator. We tend to talk about the notion of doing mediation after going to court. So I want to talk a little bit about that notion, and what kind of situations lead to going to court.    

So it’s typically when a couple separates and one of the parties is going to apply to court for issues like parental time with the children, child support and things like that. And we’ll make an application with a safeguard order. This means that these important issues will be decided in a very quick way.   

When the decision of a judge is to issue a safeguard order, it creates a precedent and it’s very difficult to change that. Many people see that it is not as amusing as that. It’s expensive, it’s stressful and it’s going to take a long time. There are a lot of delays if they want to get a divorce and make a final decision on these issues. It’s much more efficient and less expensive to go into mediation with the idea of settling a dispute because we must recommend to the clients to mediate right away, because it’s in the best interest of the children. It’s in the best interest, not just the interest.  

The thing that will help promote a good mediation is the will of the parties. It is the mediator who explains at the beginning what we have here, we are not usually forced to be there to do the mediation. So we need people’s willingness, to have an open mind, so with all this the clients will know that it is confidential if they go to court after that things in mediation will not be used against each other, that there is an honesty that has a good will, that is not forced. I think that these are things that will result in successful mediation. 

Quite often there are quick results. They see success with the atmosphere of mediation, it’s informal, it’s just the mediator with the two clients. They have a chance to talk and express themselves and the disputes will be resolved very easily. There is something good with clients who have already gone to court also because they have experienced the stress of court and then they come into a mediation office and the atmosphere is so different than court and they are relieved. It’s much easier. I mean more than 90% of my mediations are successful and we come to total agreement. There are always exceptions where things won’t happen, but if that party is not willing to move on its rigid and is not generous, we won’t move forward in the mediation.   

For mediation to be successful it is absolutely necessary that the couple wants it to be successful. If there is too much hatred between the couple mediation will not succeed. If there are accusations without stop the mediation will fail. So, not all couples are suited to go to a mediator.   

To go to court costs a lot of money, but it costs a lot more emotionally. You are very stressed in courts, there are witnesses, there are accusations, and it takes a lot of time, it can take three years before you go to court to get the final judgment. We can and often do get a safeguard order for child support, for custody and for spousal support. Sometimes it’s the wife who has to pay the alimony, it depends on the situation, emotionally it’s very, very difficult to go to court and you never know what will happen with a judgment, sometimes you’re very disappointed with the judgment that is rendered, and nobody is happy. 

For me the method that is necessary to follow this delay is to see a mediator and to try to work together with the mediator and that it is really in the best interest of the children because the children suffer. The children suffer enough when the parents separate the parents the children will suffer much more if the parents have to go to court because emotionally it’s very stressful for the couple and the children feel the stress, so in the best interest of the children for me it’s always better to go or to try to go and work with mediator and to settle, at least a part of the issues.     

There was a judge who passed away already, and he always said when he heard a case in separation divorce, and I say the same thing today to my clients. Sir, Madam you do not want to live together I understand, you do not love your husband, sir you do not love your wife, I understand but you have children who have not asked for the separation and if you continue to fight between you, it is the children who will suffer and will suffer forever. 

When parents separate, it is essential that they make wise decisions about the consequences of their break-up, especially with regard to the well-being of their children. Emotions run high and couples need guidance in making decisions about their new life plans and their role as parents. This is where family mediation comes in. Family mediation allows couples with common dependent children to benefit from the services of a professional mediator who can help the parties in conflict to build their own solutions. It re-establishes communication between former spouses in order to repair their relationship for the well-being of the child or, more generally, to allow them to continue to live together in the most harmonious and peaceful way possible.

Law students from the Faculty of Law, Civil Law Section, at the University of Ottawa met with two experts to learn more about this method of resolving family disputes. They realized how essential it is for parents of dependent children to be aware of the possibility of mediation, as this approach is particularly useful in maintaining an ongoing relationship with their former spouse in the best interests of the child.

In this video, Debra Shapiro, a lawyer and family law mediator at Green Glazer Lawyers in Montreal, presents the different approaches to successful mediation. In addition, Doreen Brown, a family lawyer at Green Glazer Lawyers, shares her experience with separation and divorce cases involving dependent children and how mediation can avoid the disadvantages of litigation, such as emotional stress, high costs and long delays.

This visual advocacy video was produced by law students Leana Dermeguerditchian, Isabel Green, Shoshana Lallouz, Yvette Tshibuabua Meta and Yango Razakamananifidiny as part of the Visual Advocacy/Law and Film course offered at the University of Ottawa, Faculty of Law, Civil Law Section. 

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