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Divorce Blog

Understanding is the Holy Grail to Mediation

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. This full-day conference was loaded with information regarding new techniques to resolve complex family law problems from international leading experts.

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. Unless we probe for the underlying interests, conflict may be escalated or sustained. 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 and when these levels are sustained, they will invariably harm the physical brain, which in turn will 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.

She concludes her speech by explaining that mediators deal with people’s lives and that it is necessary to ask the 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?
  • Who is your support?
  • What are your feelings regarding money and financial stability?
  • What are your financial goals and desires?
  • What are your desires and goals as a parent?
  • What is most important to you in this process?
  • What does fair look like to you?