It may not be a popular stance but it is one that I whole-heartedly support. Lawyers participating in Family mediation meetings with their clients.
There are many situations where mediation is unsuccessful because the mediator and/or the client doesn’t have the support of their lawyer. Some people are just so mistrustful of their ex-partner that it makes it difficult for them to make a decision.
I have many clients that are so close to agreement in mediation but end up fighting it out through lawyers…all to get them back to the same place they were when they left mediation. You can imagine the cost of this.
When I think that having the lawyers in the room will help them to have fruitful discussions and really assist clients with understanding their rights I am happy to recommend it. The clients like this solution as they feel more secure with decisions and let’s face it, most people don’t want to go to court so any idea that keeps them out is worth a shot.
So why do 5 way meeting make up such a small portion of my business? I find them successful, the clients like the idea…where does initiating the process break down? Yes, with the lawyers.
Don’t get me wrong, this post is not to beat up on lawyers. I work with some very empathetic, creative and knowledgeable lawyers that are truly supporting their client’s best interests. My confusion stems from the fact that clients want this option and many lawyers are not supportive of it. Family law is changing and maybe it’s time for all of us to look for solutions that really work for families, not just for the divorce industry.
If you have not been through a divorce or have not been dragged through the court system you will not understand the need for creative solutions that keep families out of court. I have been through many difficult situations in my life and I can assure you that the family court system was by far the WORST. I really wouldn’t wish it on my worst enemy!
Couples in such an emotional state should not be placed in the system without their legal representation informing them of other options. Having said that, client’s are now better informed about what their rights are and alternatives to the traditional legal process due to the wealth of information out there. All parties are responsible for trying to make the best of a bad situation.
I know, I know, some client’s just want their day in court. They just want to win. Let’s be very clear here…there is no winning in family court. Someone; whether it is you, your ex or your children – someone will lose.
More and more clients are finding the need to proceed unrepresented into the legal battlefield. PLEA: Get some support from a legal professional. Many lawyers will do fee for service. In other words you don’t have to pay the huge retainers that were at one time a requirement. Discuss with a lawyer what exactly you need them for and try to negotiate something that works for your finances. Perhaps having them prepared to participate in a 5 way meeting with you is a compromise between you being unprepared to stand in front of a judge and you spending $20,000+ to fight with your ex through a lawyer.
Fact: Divorce is going to cost you money. I always say” get the most bang for your legal buck”!
A mediator can help manage the flow of the conversation and balance the power in the room between the clients and the lawyers. A mediator is looking to help the other 4 people in the room discuss and look for solutions. Often agreements are drafted in the room by the lawyers.
Do your research, ask questions and chose a solution that works for your family.
Julie Gill Q.Med
Owner & Principal Mediator,
Host of We Need To Talk on Rogers TV Durham