Here’s a letter that I wrote back in 2010 to a person that wanted support from someone in the “divorce industry’ to help them with their battle to change the Family Law Process. I had the added (dis)advantage of having also personally gone through it. I just found it and had a quick read. I still feel strongly that lawyers and mediators should work together more to benefit our clients. I have however softened a little as I have met some wonderful lawyers that ARE client focused. Have a read and let me know what you think. I’d love the feedback.
I’m writing this letter in support of your efforts to bring awareness to the changes so desperately needed in the current family law process.
As we have discussed at length, the process for families to separate or divorce is costly, stressful, time consuming, not to mention lengthy. It puts the money in the hands of the lawyers instead of the families to be used to begin their new lives. The children are not the primary concern…winning is. It also does not value the role of each parent equally.
I know intimately how time consuming and emotional custody and access issues are for parents. I was in that position 7 years ago. The process caused such stress on my relationship with my children’s father that our family is still feeling the effects. The focus during that transition should have been on the best interests of our children. Unfortunately in our case; as in many others, the lawyers kept the focus on what each of OUR legal rights were and what WE deserved. The children were certainly an afterthought in the process, although the term “best interests of the children” was used frequently.
The children deserve to have both parents actively involved in their lives and we must find a way to not only provide these parents with an alternative to court but a positive process that guides them through future changes and the reality of co-parenting.
Lawyers and judges do not have time to make each decision personal and tailored to the family’s needs. Mediation provides people with the opportunity to fairly, creatively and personally develop solutions that best meet each family’s unique situation and requirements.
The courts are not prepared to deal with the sheer volume of cases. This is not from a lack of desire but a lack of time. In a perfect world only the high conflict cases would proceed through the court system with the majority of cases being resolved by the parties themselves or through alternative solutions.
Mandatory mediation would relieve some of the burden on the courts as well as reduce costs both during separation and after separation as agreements created by the families themselves have a much higher rate of compliance.
Legal Aid is absolutely another area where change is needed. I am frequently contacted by individuals that a) do not qualify for assistance however do not have enough money to proceed with lawyers; b) qualify but cannot find representation; and c) have representation however they do not have calls returned and their files sit for long periods of time without activity. Reviewing the requirements and providing families with assistance for mediation is a valuable service that will continue to ease the burden on the LAO. Costs are increased during cases where one parent has assistance and one does not. The parent that does not have assistance is at a disadvantage. Either they are not represented or the intention by the other parent’s lawyer is often to ensure a very delayed and adversarial process in order to make it so costly that the other parent can no longer afford to “fight”.
I truly believe that once the parenting responsibilities are sorted that the parents can move on more successfully with other aspects of their separation. In a great many situations families can effectively move forward using the mediation process supported by independent legal advice. It is essential that there is a paradigm shift towards lawyers and mediators working together in the best interests of the families which are their clients.
I am very interested in helping you create awareness and I fully support your efforts to motivate change in the Family Law Process.
I wish you the best of luck with this endeavour that is genuinely very close to my heart.
Owner and Principal Mediator
Families First Mediation