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Posts from the ‘ADR’ Category

FDR: Family Dispute Resolution Week

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The theme of the week is “Let’s Talk it Out!”

Featuring events for the public and for professionals, this week features free public speakers, workshops, information centres and more.

I’m pleased to presenting today with Carolyn McAlpine on Mediation and Collaborative Law: A Better Way.  Our discussion will review:

  • —Key Elements to Collaborative Practice
  • —The Difference between Collaborative Practice and Mediation
  • —The Collaborative Team
  • —A Different Approach
  • —Reducing Hostility in Family Disputes and Separation
  • —The Nuts & Bolts of Collaborative Practice
  • — The Pace of Collaborative Practice
  • — A Focus on the Future
  • —A Focus on Interests, Not Positions
  • —Further Information about Collaborative Practice

Today’s agenda also includes:

LET’S TALK IT OUT – Northern District Library

START TIME TUESDAY, NOVEMBER 24, 2015

9:00am-9:45am

How to be great parents post-separation
Hear from two top family professionals on how to craft a parenting plan that works best for the children. Presentation by Stella Kavoukian and Laurie Stein

10:00am-10:45am

Family Violence and FDR
Information, support and resources for families experiencing violence. How to navigate separation and divorce safely— for you and your children.
Presentation by Barbra Schlifer Clinic

11:00am-11:45am

Mediation and Collaborative Law: A Better Way
Exploring the mediation and collaborative processes, emphasizing voluntariness, safety, pros vs cons when compared to the court process and how it creates long term solutions.
Presentation by Russell Alexander & Carollyn McAlpine

12:00pm-12:45pm

Public information fair: displays from agencies and organizations supporting families experiencing conflict @ Rotunda

1:00pm-1:45pm

Mental Health and FDR
Hear from a mental health professional about the resources available to separating families experiencing mental health challenges.
Presentation by Caroline Felstiner

2:00pm-2:45pm

Court Connected Mediation Services
What you need to know about Ontario’s free and subsidized family mediation services.
Presentation by mediate393

3:00pm-3:45pm

Smooth Sailing: Navigating Through a Family Law Dispute
Tips and suggestions from a seasoned family lawyer: useful resources including FLIC offices, Legal Aid Ontario, free online tools and other legal resources.
Presentation by Joel Skapinker

4:00-9:00pm

Public information fair: displays from agencies and organizations supporting families experiencing conflict @ Rotunda

We hope to see you there. To learn more about this week’s events including where to attend and how to register, click here.

Mediation? Arbitration? Collaborative Divorce? What is the Difference?

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Mediation? Arbitration? Collaborative Divorce? What is the Difference?

Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) mechanisms are an efficient and increasingly popular way to resolve some Family Law disputes without having to resort to full-blown litigation. Since they all involve settlement of issues outside the realm of the traditional justice system, they tend to be more expedient and cost-effective.

While various ADR mechanisms have unique focuses and processes, many have similar features which can make them difficult to distinguish. Here are the three most common kinds of ADR:

Mediation

The mediation process features the involvement of a trained mediator who helps couples resolve their legal disputes through negotiation. Mediation tends to be an informal process: it is geared resolving issues or at least identifying common ground between the parties, and therefore narrowing down the issues that remain contentious. (And if mediation fails, then the parties are still free to proceed to traditional litigation). In Ontario it can be used in connection with only certain matters which include child support, access and custody, and equalization of net family property.

Arbitration

In contrast to mediation, which is voluntary, arbitration is more similar to a formal court hearing – minus all the formality. Each party is given the opportunity to tell his or her side of the story to an impartial arbitrator, who then makes a ruling that is binding on them both. Although it involves a less rigid procedure than going to court, there are still certain protocols in connection with witnesses’ testimony, and with submitting evidence and documents. Arbitration can cover only certain Family Law disputes, such as spousal or child support, custody and access to children, and division of property. It cannot cover divorce, marriage annulments, and certain administrative changes to official family status and declarations of parentage. Once an arbitration award has been issued, it can be enforced though a simplified procedure that is governed by legislation.

Collaborative Divorce

The underlying philosophy of the collaborative divorce process is that the parties mutually agree to completely avoid the court process, with the result being a faster, cheaper and more amicable divorce. To achieve this, the parties each sign a contract prior to the start of negotiations, agreeing to full disclosure of information and setting out the principles of the collaborative process. Their respective lawyers – who must be trained specifically in collaborative law – also agree not to press the matter to court. (And if ultimately it turns out that settlement cannot be reached, then new lawyers have to be hired). There is a focus throughout the process on co-operation, disclosure, honesty, and the best interests of children.

At Russell Alexander, Family Lawyers our focus is exclusively family law, offering pre-separation legal advice and assisting clients with family related issues including: custody and access, separation agreements, child and spousal support, division of family property, paternity disputes, and enforcement of court orders. For more information, visit us at Russell Alexander.com

Ontario Family Mediation is a Good Thing – But it’s Not the Only Thing

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Ontario Family Mediation is a Good Thing – But it’s Not the Only Thing

Everyone knows that litigation of any type can be time-consuming and expensive. In Family Law in particular – where high-conflict situations between the parties are heightened by emotional considerations – disputes can be dragged through the courts for literally years and years.

Not surprisingly, there has been increasing interest in Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) mechanisms for Family Law disputes especially. Amongst the options available, mediation is a particularly popular choice because it involves a voluntary process involving trained mediators who assist Family Law litigants to resolve their issues. Indeed, relatively recently the Ontario Ministry of the Attorney General has made Family Mediation Services available right in the family court locations, although private third-parties can be used as well. In either case, parties can obtain the assistance of these third parties to help them resolves disputes that arise in connection with relationship breakdowns, including child custody, access and support, and equalization of net family property.

But while mediation is a good idea in both theory and practice, it cannot be the only step that parties take to try to resolve their Family Law disputes. This is because mediation is not intended to replace good legal advice.

Rather, for each party in a dispute, mediation is a step that ideally should be “sandwiched” between obtaining legal advice from an experienced lawyer, before and after.

This is because mediators have a defined role, and one that is relatively narrow. Specifically they:

• Must be independent and neutral (i.e. cannot take sides);

• Cannot give advice to either party;

• Cannot make decisions for the parties.

(Indeed by definition mediators are neutral third-party participants in the dispute-resolution process; they are sometimes lawyers by training but equally often are social workers or psychologists).

As such, it is important for a couple considering mediation as an ADR option to speak to their individual lawyers long before they seek out the services of a mediator. By doing so, they can each obtain tailored legal advice as to the governing law in their particular situation, can get guidance on their respective legal positions, and can have the possibilities for acceptable areas of compromise flushed out for them. All of the steps, made with a lawyer’s assistance, are fundamental prerequisites to reaching a mutually-agreeable mediated settlement. (And it should also be noted that lawyers usually do not attend mediation with their clients.)

In addition, the parties must avail themselves of legal advice after the mediation process has been tentatively concluded: any purported agreement that is reached during mediation must be reviewed with the parties’ individual lawyers, to ensure that it accurately and comprehensively reflects the desired resolution that was reached.

The bottom line: Mediation can be a worthwhile process for resolving Family Law disputes. But while it can eliminate costly time in court, it is neither a standalone process nor a replacement for good legal advice.

At Russell Alexander, Family Lawyers our focus is exclusively family law, offering pre-separation legal advice and assisting clients with family related issues including: custody and access, separation agreements, child and spousal support, division of family property, paternity disputes, and enforcement of court orders. For more information, visit us at http://www.russellalexander.com/practice/family-mediation-and-adr/