The New Acronym -PDR
There are many ways to work through the issues associated with a separation/divorce. At one end, the couple can negotiate together and come up with their agreements. (They would need to have a good grasp of family law to make sure their agreements regarding parenting time, child support, special/extraordinary expenses, property division and spousal support are well within what a judge would order. If not, they might be making their situation much more difficult than it already is.) At the other end of the spectrum, a couple can initiate a court process so that a judge can tell them what is going to happen between them.
Frankly, very few couples need to resort to a court process. The vast majority of couples who are separating only need 2 things: legal information, and help with the conversation. This is what mediation is about. Mediators offer the legal information required, and will give parties their best chance at a productive conversation so they can move forward.
Unfortunately, many people view the court process as the main way that separations are worked out. Not only do the numbers tell a different story, but also the Family Law Act (which came into force on March 18, 2013) is clear that the preferred method to resolve marriage disputes is something OTHER than court. Section 4 states:
4 The purposes of this Part are as follows:
(a) to ensure that parties to a family law dispute are informed of the various methods available to resolve the dispute;
(b) to encourage parties to a family law dispute to resolve the dispute through agreements and appropriate family dispute resolution before making an application to a court;
(c) to encourage parents and guardians to
(i) resolve conflict other than through court intervention, and
(ii) create parenting arrangements and arrangements respecting contact with a child that is in the best interests of the child.
Think about it, the courts are clogged with cases, and judges know that the court process can be destructive to families and is only suitable for a few. So the law is saying that couples should separate using other methods.
Up to now, mediation has been referred to as “Alternate Dispute Resolution” (ADR) –the “other way” to separate and divorce. An “alternative” to the main way. However, I prefer to think of mediation as “Primary Dispute Resolution” (PDR) –the MAIN way to separate and divorce. Mediation is not the thing one tries if court does not work. It is not the thing to try only if legal costs make court proceedings with representation impossible to afford. MEDIATION IS THE DEFAULT, AND COURT IS THE LAST RESORT. According to the law, court is now ADR!
I constantly hear horror stories from my clients who went down the road of legal proceedings, but were unsatisfied with the results and the debt they now have to deal with. If you are considering how to move forward with your separation, please contact a qualified family mediator the get information about the best way to handle it. You are likely a good candidate for PDR.