Divorce Blog

Understanding in Mediation: The Holy Grail in Family Law

By Karen Stewart

.In late June, Fairway’s CEO Karen Stewart and one of our Senior Negotiators attended the Law Society of Alberta’s Family Law Secrets Exposed Super Conference. The full-day conference was loaded with information regarding new techniques to resolve complex family law problems from international leading experts, specifically understanding in mediation for family law.

From the abundance of information and discussions conducted at this conference, our Senior Negotiator Micheline Maes pulled details from what she learned to explain to the office what she believes is the biggest problem with divorcing couples using lawyers in Canada. Maes reiterates that the problem stated in the conference is that most lawyers in this province do not take the time to get to know the family, therefore they do not take the time to understand the need in coming up with a fair solution.

Micheline explains that it’s not the math that drives the solution, but the underlying interests. Conflict can escalate or be sustained. if we don’t probe for the underlying interests. For instance, one party insists on a different value for their house when the real issue is that they need a little bit more after-tax dollars to buy a house. So, they spend money on valuations and arguing their applicability and more legal fees all along.

Continued conflict invariably harms the children. They are not immune to the negative energy, even when the parents don’t discuss the issues around them. This raises cortisol levels. When these levels are sustained, they can harm the physical brain. This can translate into behavioural problems down the road. In extreme cases, a borderline personality disorder may emerge.

Holy GrailMaes repeats the same phrase to the office throughout her speech, stating that “fairness is the Holy Grail in family law”. Fair to Maes is a solution that respects underlying interests as they pertain to the clients and their families while minimizing wealth erosion and protecting the children.

Questions for Understanding in Mediation

She concludes her speech by explaining that understanding in mediation deals with people’s lives. It is necessary to ask these relevant questions in order to build the best resolution plan:

  • What does your future look like to you?
  • What is important to you as a parent?
  • How would you like to communicate with the other parent?
  • What is your biggest fear as we are going through this process?
  • What do you love about your partner/the other parent?
  • How are your children feeling about all this?
  • What are your desires and goals as a parent?
  • What are your feelings regarding money and financial stability?
  • Who is your support?
  • What are your financial goals and desires?
  • What is most important to you in this process?
  • Why does fairness matter and what does it mean to you?