Family lawyers in BC now have an obligation to present positive legal options for families outside of the litigation process. These options work to resolve family law issues such as separation, divorce, parenting arrangements and child or spousal support. They include mediation, arbitration, collaborative law, cooperative law, and negotiation.
Audra Bayer, a Kelowna family lawyer well-known for her collaborative approach to family disputes, explains, “There are positive options to family law litigation. It is important to understand the differences in these processes. The client has options regarding education, guidance and empowerment from his/her lawyer during the interview process. Not only with respect to expectations for outcome but also with respect to the process itself.”
Positive options for family law – alternatives to litigation
The law entitles the client to the following positive options for family law:
a) that the lawyer will schedule a meeting/consultation to educate and guide them on available processes to resolve family conflicts with a goal of reducing anxiety and uncertainty about process;
b) the client and lawyer must each take the time to go through the available options in basic terms and answer any questions or concerns that the client may have;
c) once the client and lawyer have agreed on a process, the client must check in often with the lawyer. The lawyer ought to check in with the former partner’s lawyer. The client is encouraged to communicate with their former partner early in the process as well.
The lawyer must be consistently checking with their client and with the other lawyer on the next step of the process and discuss the parties’ respective and mutual goals. This will empower each of them and give them a sense of control over the process they are using to make important decisions for themselves and their family.
Audra tells us, “I have certainly learned in both my professional and personal life that fear is an emotion which can be a tremendous motivator or the alternative one that can lead to entrenchment and a debilitating lack of ability to move forward. As a mediator, I recognize that fear in that process is related at least in part to the parties’ uncertainty in both the outcome and the process.”
Audra, experienced litigation in her own separations and as a family lawyer, is keenly aware that there is a great deal of fear that comes from uncertainty in this process and the uncertainty of the outcome in litigation as well.
Benefits of mediation in family law
Audra has seen through her experience that mediators do a better job of explaining the process. This may be because they are not invested in the control of the process because the parties have that control. It may be because they are trained to meet with each party and carefully review and explain the process, more than once and as the process unfolds as well if necessary. Mediators also tend to be trained and more inclined to develop strong interpersonal communication skills that are person centric and to deal with problems and issues from not only a legal perspective but one that includes the complexity of the human condition and human emotions. A family lawyer that has mediation and arbitration training, can be incredibly beneficial to helping families move through separation and divorce without the stress of litigation.
As a process, mediation lends itself to empowering the all of the people going through a divorce and separation. The positive options to family law revolve around collaborative communication. The process is one which allows the parties to have input into both the process and resolution of their issues and make decisions that will affect their family in all of the important day to day and long term aspects including parenting issues, finances, division of property and communication.
Litigation in family law
Litigation can sometimes leave the decision making to strangers who although committed to doing a good job for the parties do not know or love them or their children and are going to be crafting resolutions to conflict and making decisions which affect the parties’ and their families based upon a snapshot of their lives – that snapshot being delivered in the form of affidavits which may or may not contain all of the relevant information; an assessment which is a snapshot from a social worker or a psychologist who make their best efforts to obtain, reduce and report all of the information they obtain in a contested environment into recommendations which will affect parents and their children for the foreseeable future. The lens that the lawyers, judges and other professionals use is one which is developed in a contested, strategic environment. Although sometimes necessary, sometimes the only option left in some cases for resolving a conflict, it ought not be the first process used. It is an emotional and financially costly choice.
Benefits of BC family lawyers trained in mediation and arbitration
Knowing both the law revolving around the BC Family Act and having education and experience in family law mediation – a trained lawyer can outline the differences and benefits and help to foster the Family Act mandate to help families use alternative dispute resolution processes to reach effective family law agreements in a timely way without going to court. Audra Bayer is an experienced family lawyer who has obtained certification to practice collaborative law and has completed courses in the Alternative Dispute Resolution program at York University in Ontario with a focus on dispute resolution, domestic violence, and high-conflict family law.
If you want to explore your options to divorce and are looking for a Kelowna family lawyer, or a Winnipeg family lawyer, call Audra in confidence at: 778 754 1542.