Cooperative Solutions

March 2016

28

Mar'16

HOW SHOULD WE HANDLE THE LEGAL ISSUES ARISING FROM OUR SEPARATION?

HOW SHOULD WE HANDLE THE LEGAL ISSUES ARISING FROM OUR SEPARATION? By Anne-Marie Langan B.A., B.S.W., LL.B. A. INTRODUCTION Few events in life are more stressful and confusing than separating from a spouse, especially if there are children involved. Not only is separation an emotionally difficult time, it can be financially stressful since two households must now be supported. There are various methods of resolving family law disputes, including litigation, negotiation, mediation, and collaborative family law, each with its own pros and cons. This article will seek to analyze the benefits and draw backs of each method in order to assist couples who are separating in choosing the option that is most suited to their situation. B. LITIGATION Litigation is the most familiar and yet the least resorted to option for resolving family law disputes. Only a small minority of couples resolve their family law disputes by going to court. The public airing of personal affairs is one reason why people tend to avoid the courts. There is also a lack of understanding among the general public about the rules of the court, leaving litigants often baffled by the amount and complexity of the paperwork involved in bringing a court action. Another drawback of going to court is that it can be very impersonal. Judges do not have the time or the inclination to get to know the parties or their children on a personal level. As a result, the judgments they render usually do not address all of the issues arising from the separation. Most importantly, statements made in litigation have a tendency to polarize the parties and cause hurt feelings that can last for a lifetime and can permanently scar relationships. High legal costs are another reason why people tend to avoid litigation. Lawyers are generally paid by the hour and it can take many hours for a lawyer to prepare and file the necessary court papers, not to mention the many hours that lawyers can spend at the court waiting for judges to hear their client’s matter and in travelling to and from various court locations. Despite its drawbacks, litigation is appropriate in some circumstances, particularly where one party is attempting to avoid meeting their support obligations or is withholding the children from the other party. There are also circumstances, albeit rarely, where a couple will have a question regarding the proper interpretation of the law in a given set of circumstances or a question regarding their constitutional rights. It is highly appropriate to bring these questions before a court as it serves to clarify the issue for all others who are separating in similar circumstances. If the parties are unable to resolve their dispute through negotiation and/or mediation, a judge can assist them in reaching a settlement agreement by advising them of what the likely outcome of litigation would be for each party. C. NEGOTIATION By far the most common way of resolving family law disputes is through negotiation: either direct negotiation where the parties are able to come to an agreement (written or verbal) entirely on their own, or negotiation through lawyers. If separating parties want to come to an agreement without involving lawyers in the negotiation, they should at least consider consulting a family law lawyer to get some information about their basic legal rights and obligations. There are also resources available on the internet that impart some basic information about family law.1 Many separating couples ask their lawyers to negotiate a separation agreement on their behalf. If the couple has already come to consensus on most of the substantive issues arising from their separation, it can be fairly simple and inexpensive for the lawyer of one of the parties to draft an agreement that reflects the couple’s shared views using legal terminology. The other party can then take the draft agreement to their lawyer for review and receive some independent legal advice. Once both parties have signed the agreement, it can be filed with the courts, either on its own, or along with an application for divorce. How quickly an agreementcan be negotiatedwill depend on the complexity of the issues that the parties are dealing with and their ability to communicate, either directly with each other, or through their lawyers in order to come to an agreement. Couples who are not able to come to an agreement about a substantive issue arising from their separation can end up fighting through their lawyers at a substantial cost to both parties and could still end up litigating their dispute. D. MEDIATION Mediation is a process whereby an independent and impartial third party assists the separating couple to negotiate an agreement.2 Mediation can be used as an alternative to litigation, but the two are not mutually exclusive. Some couples use the mediation process to negotiate a Parenting Plan and use litigation or collaborative family law to resolve support and property issues. Some mediations are “closed”, which means that all of the information exchangedby the parties during mediation remains confidentialand cannot be used in any future litigation between the parties. In other cases, clients may request a non binding recommendation from the mediator, for example on a parenting issue, if they reach an impasse. This is known as “open” mediation. If there are concerns about a power imbalance or significant differences in sophistication on some issues, the process can be structured to take these concerns into account, for example by using a “shuttle” process or by inviting a support person (eg a financialadvisor) or the lawyers to attend for part or all of the mediation.3 The mediator can give both parties general information about the law, but cannot apply this advice to either individual, even if he/she is legally trained, as this would put the mediator in a conflict of interest with the other party. One of the biggest advantages of mediation is that the parties can use it to create an agreement that is tailored to their family’s needs. During mediation, the parties can discuss and resolve issues that they would not have the opportunity to address through the courts. For example, mediation agreementsoften go into greater detail about the living arrangements for the children, how the parenting responsibilities will be carried out and how decisions will be made. Parties can also find creative solutions to property and support issues by working together to solve the problems. Mediation is not an effective venue for all couples. If, for whatever reason, there is a large imbalance of power between the parties or if there are safety issues as a result of domestic violence or abuse, mediation may not be appropriate. The ability to reach an agreement depends largely on the ability of the parties to communicate with each other and trust each other. If one of the parties is refusing to disclose important information or is using the mediation process for ulterior motives (such as to delay the onset of litigation), this type of behaviour can be very harmful for the other party. Mediation can be a relatively inexpensive way to resolve a family law dispute, as the parties share the cost of paying the mediator. It is very important for couples who use mediation to resolve their family law disputes to become informed of their legal rights and responsibilities towards their children and their spouses before going to mediation. Some people are not aware of certain legal consequences of separation, such as tax consequences or their right to benefit from their ex-spouse’s pension. Others unknowingly have misunderstood the law as it relates to their situation because of misinformation obtained from family members or friends who have given them bad advice. An agreement that is based on misleading or incomplete information could be found by a court not to be enforceable. It is therefore very important that parties consult a family lawyer prior to going to mediation and certainly before signing an agreement. E. COLLABORATIVE FAMILY LAW Collaborative family law4 is a recent development that originates from the United States. Collaborative family lawyers work together with their clients to resolve the disputes that arise from separation. Each party is represented by their own lawyer during the collaborative process and the parties meet with their lawyers in four-way meetings. At the outset, the parties and their lawyers agree they will do everything in their power to resolve the dispute collaboratively and without resorting to litigation or threats of litigation. If the negotiations between the parties are at an impasse, collaborative lawyers will often suggest involving a mediator or arbitrator, to assist the parties in resolving the dispute. In the event that the parties find themselves unable to collaborate, and decide to pursue litigation, both collaborative lawyers must withdraw from the case. This gives an added incentive to the parties and to the lawyers to reach an agreement. One of the biggest advantages to resolving family law disputes in this way is that the couple can learn better ways to communicate with each other and to negotiate with each other while in a relatively safe environment, so that after the agreement is done the couple can continue to use these newly acquired communication skills to resolve any future disputes. This is especially valuable for couples who have children and who want to ensure their children do not suffer as a result of the breakdown of their relationship. Collaborative family law lawyers sometimes bring other professionals into the process to assist with various aspects of the case. For example, a child specialist can assist with issues involving parenting. Or financial advisors can be brought in to help parties decide how to deal with a family business venture after separation, or to assist with the division of other family assets and liabilities. Having one expert who is assisting both parties can be far less expensive and time consuming than having each party hire their own expert to do two separate evaluations. Negotiating an agreement using the collaborative family law method can sometimes take a little longer than going to court, and may in some situations prove more expensive than litigation, depending on the complexity of the issues involved. However, many participants in the collaborative process have found the process to be empowering and the results more personally satisfying. Agreements reached through the collaborative process tend to be more equitable and enforceable than agreements negotiated by lawyers alone or judgments made by the court.(5) F. CONCLUSION There are various methods to handle any legal issue that arises from separation. It’s up to you to pick the best method suited to you and your family’s needs. Each method has its positives and negatives, from not having to air personal affairs in public, to finding creative solutions to property and support issues by working together to solve problems. As long as there is some degree of trust remaining between the parties, it is beneficial to both parties and their children to resolve their issues in as non-adversarial a way as possible, as this minimizes the emotional damage as well as the expense of separation and divorce. Generally speaking, the old adage “time is money” applies in this situation: the longer the parties take to resolve their disputes, the more expensive the process becomes. (5) For information about Collaborative Family Law in Ontario, go the following websites http://www.coop-solutions.ca and http://www.collaborativelawcentre.com.

Read More

28

Mar'16

Circle Process: A Unique Intervention

Circle Process: A Unique Intervention by Bunny Macfarlane We were fortunate to have Joyce M. Young join the Restorative Justice section meeting on the 21st of November. She is a trained Circle Keeper and Circle Trainer, receiving her instruction from Peacebuilder’s International. She is a Family Mediator and Co-Chair of the Family Section of the ADR Institute. Joyce began by sharing her experience participating in a Circle Process for a supportive housing project in Regent Park. You may read about the outcome of that experience in the Globe and Mail Article: The Building That Fought Back. Joyce is pleased to report that within nine months of implementing Circles in the Regent Park area, the group succeeded in removing drug dealers from one of its buildings. What is a Circle? Joyce explained that a Circle is a structured intervention, built on a key set of values, the most central being respect. She explained that honesty, empathy, sharing, inclusivity, courage, and integrity are also key to the process. The underlying principle of the Circle is democracy. Not the typical definition of democracy as we understand it, but the notion that the facilitator is at the service of the Circle. Even though the Circle Keeper is there to serve the Circle, he or she is a part of the Circle and participates as one of the members of the Circle. Another guiding principle of the Circle is that there are no observers. Disruption by late arrivals is discouraged as well. Based on the respectful foundation of the Circle, one person speaks at a time as the others listen and each speaker is allowed to do so without interruption. The Centre Piece and the Speaking Piece There are two characteristics unique to the Circle. The first is the centrepiece, which is a collection of beautiful items selected by the Circle Keeper(s). These are placed in the centre of the Circle. All items hold some connection to the Circle Keeper and are selected specifically for the occasion of each unique Circle. Participants may also be invited to bring objects for the centrepiece. The second unique object is the speaking piece. When held, the object allows the speaker the opportunity to embrace his or her message, understand the significance of his or her words and sense the unique opportunity to be heard by the others. Joyce opened the Circle with a reading, offering the group the opportunity to discuss the notion of empathy. Each Circle participant spoke about his or her experience relating to empathy for three complete rounds, each with different threads, offering each member of the Section an opportunity to contribute to the sum of the whole. Participants found this experience moving, powerful, insightful, inclusive and breathtaking all at the same time. Participants eagerly await the opportunity to experience this unique sense of belonging at the next Circle. Bunny Macfarlane is President of Syzygy Resolutions, a conflict management and dispute resolution practice. Ms. Macfarlane is also a member of the ADR Institute of Ontario, and presently serves as Chair of the newly developed Restorative Justice Section of the Institute. The January 23rd Family Section meeting will deal with the use of Circle Process n Family Mediation. To register, please call Mena at 416-487- 4447 or email her at admin@adrontario.ca

Read More

28

Mar'16

The Building That Fought Back

SAFETY As Toronto grapples with gun violence, residents of one troubled housing project have found a quiet but effective way to reduce crime. JOYCE YOUNG tells their story. The building that fought back In a neighbourhood notorious for poverty and street drugs, in a city reeling from gun violence, I have witnessed hope: a supportive housing project peacefully rid its building of drug trafficking. Called in to help, I watched as a community circle was created – a joint effort by tenants, staff, police, a lawyer and a private security firm. In six months, this diverse group became a team and the nightly number of people let into the building to buy crack dropped from 45 users a night to five. The housing project, in Toronto’s Regent Park, supports formerly homeless people who are trying to turn their lives around. They include survivors of childhood sexual abuse, people struggling with addiction or mental illness and recent immigrants. They have all been on the street. They are people who share a street culture characterized by the despair of poverty and the victimization of violence. They also share fear and distrust, pain which they cover with the thin veneer of being cool and tough. The director of the project asked me to facilitate a meeting between staff and tenants to deal with issues in a shared outdoor space, the courtyard. I suggested a circle process because it gives everybody an equal voice. We thought we might have two meetings. Our first dealt with annoying issues of noise and garbage in the courtyard. But by the second, the fearsome issue of drug trafficking in the building was in our laps. It began when a man, who had not been to the circle, swept in and said ” I just passed five junkies stoned out of their gourds. There are needles in the stairwell and people passed out in the laundry room. They’re smoking up all over the place. And they’re dangerous. I mean, you are good people but I’m telling you: Don’t mess with them. You get between a junkie and his stuff and you’re dead, man. Real dead.” He ranted for about five minutes and left. The group was in shock. The safe space of the circle had been violated. Many possible interventions raced through my mind. I chose to trust the integrity of the circle. A tenant (who I will call Jane) had been curled up in a foetal position, crying as that man spoke. When the talking piece came around to her, she cycled from fear to anger. She threw the talking piece on the floor and bolted. Jane had expressed the feelings of many. After she left, the conversation turned towards, “What can we do?” Tenants talked about getting security cameras, confronting the people coming in to buy drugs, calling the police. The question of bringing in the police was very controversial. But as the talking piece was passed around and people listened, a consensus emerged. A tenant who had been opposed to involving the police said, “Let’s bring a police officer to the circle, so that we can learn how to work with the police more effectively as a community.” The group agreed. By the third meeting, it seemed that there were two minor dealers and one major crack dealer, (who I will call Johnny) living in the building. Suzy (not her real name), who lives with one of the minor crack dealers, had come to the meeting. A police officer was our guest. We discussed the value of humility. Jane said she learned humility, “When I found out my five-year-old daughter was dying and there wasn’t a damn thing I could do about it.” The police officer said, “Every day time I hug and kiss my kids before I go to work, I am reminded of my humility ….. I have a dangerous job to do and I do it with humility, because I want to come back home to my family.” The police officer didn’t judge them, or give them attitude. He talked about personal safety, emergency priorities, physical changes they could make to the building. He took up the group’s hope to get the drug traffic out of the building: “I will commit to this if you will. If you will step up, I will step up.” Specific strategies and ideas were generated. The officer suggested we reduce the number of entrances to the building. The director explained that the fire code requires four exits. A tenant suggested that two of the exits could be locked one way, so that you could get out but not get in. The collaboration produces a rough plan. This Circle meeting felt like a turning point to me. Staff and tenants were becoming a team. Tenants felt empowered by new information and by seeing some of their suggestions implemented. The group had an energy and engagement. More tenants were showing up for meetings. The tenants decided to post the circle meeting minutes around the building. It’s surprising that, sometimes, just when I think that things are getting better, they get worse. A week later the director called me and said, “We are in crisis. The ‘businessmen’ moved in this week. They beat up Johnny, took over his unit are dealing heroin out of here. I’ve hired a lawyer and he’s coming to our next circle meeting.” Two more tenants, who I later learned are the small time dealers, had joined the Circle. One of them, who I will call Tony, stayed for the whole meeting and did not say a single word. But he was listening. Suzy was back again. The lawyer explained the rights of landlords and tenants. He emphasized specific information. He explained that evicting a tenant through the Housing Tribunal is a long and expensive proposition. He suggested other strategies, advised of additional funding sources for security guards. Suzy’s partner, a small-time dealer, came in, sat in the lawyer’s chair and started to talk.. This man had never been to a circle before, but I think Suzy had filled him in. He was straight. He said, “I don’t know many of you, but if I’ve ever frightened or intimidated you, which probably I have, I apologize. I know I do bad things when I am high. I’m trying to kick the drugs. We are trying to get our kids back. I’m trying to turn my life around and it’s really, really hard.” Then he left. By this point all of the drug- involved tenants but Johnny had come to the circle. At her turn Jane said “Enough talk. Let’s do something. Let’s send a message that we are taking back our homes. You know what I’d love to see: Friday night, 10 members of the Christian bikers power over here and line up their hogs in front of this place.” This seed of an idea sprouted and grew as the talking piece went around. A tenant said,” It should be a vigil to keep our home safe. Let’s send the message that this is a Christian, family building.” The tenants got on board: “I’ll put signs up… I’ll get candles…I’ll bring the song sheets… I’ll call the media… The Chair of the Board said he wanted all Board and staff to do their best to be there. Ten days later, the tenants and staff held the vigil. All kinds of people came. The media came. Board members came. Suits came. By the end of the next day, the Executive Director instructed the Director to “hire a private security firm and get them in there now. I don’t know how we will pay for it, but we’ll figure that out later.” Every change creates its own set of issues. Many were glad to see security in the building. The heroin dealers moved out of Johnny’s unit shortly after the security came in. But there were altercations between tenants and security staff. One tenant filed a complaint of racial profiling. The Director invited the lead security person to the next Circle meeting. The value for this meeting was empathy. The reading for the opening ritual began like this: “Longfellow wrote, ‘If we could read the secret history of our enemies, we should find in each man’s life sorrow and suffering enough to disarm all hostility.’ ” Jane said, “Sometimes I think I’m wonderful and sometimes I think I’m horrible. But today I realized that I was thinking that way because I was seeing everything through the filter of my 5-year-old daughter’s death. Today I realized that I could choose to put that filter away. I can put myself aside, which is hard to do, and give empathy.” Our guest, the young security guard, said, “When I was 7 years old, a police officer took me away from my parents because they were beating on me. I’m training to be a police officer. I’m a security guard. Empathy is why I’m here. I don’t want any of your kids to go through what I did. And, if we don’t get the drugs out of this building, they will.” The altercations had been about security guards asking tenants for identification The group discussed the issues and designed a respectful identification system for tenants and their legitimate guests. Tenants reported that for the first time they felt safe in the building and could get a good night’s sleep. Staff reported, “We’ve gone from 45 illegal entries a night down to 10, and 5 of those 10 were by Johnny going for walks late at night, or doing his business elsewhere.” Towards the end, the security guard said, “You have something very special going on for you. Security can’t do it alone. I’ve been in buildings where the tenants either don’t care, or they are too afraid to speak out. Somehow, by coming together, you’ve got something very special going on, and I’m proud to be a part of it.” That was our November meeting. Looking back, I agree. By coming together in a community Circle, this group found the courage to move from the paralysis of victimization to the action of empowerment, on so many levels. This group has a new confidence and connection. They have made a difference. Jane fled the first meeting in angry tears, but she not only came back, she became a leader and she learned that she has choices. Looking back, I realize that I too am changed. I am humbled by being at the service of the Circle. One solution, or one community process will never solve the complex problem of gun violence. Perhaps the root problem is poverty, or racism. The violence that is upon our schools and cities has taken on the dimensions of King Kong, leaving us feeling frightened and paralyzed in it’s shadow. We can’t imagine how to take it on. The community Circle at the housing project is a microcosm of these complex issues. They didn’t set out to take on the drug trade. They set out to take on the noise and garbage. Their journey was no more predictable than the course of an aged, meandering river. This Circle taught me that the important thing is to come together and take on one thing that affects you: the thing that you can see and hear, is the thing that you can change. Joyce Young, is a family mediator and Circle facilitator in private practice. She teaches Advanced Dispute Resolution at Atkinson College, York University. 416.536.1164 • www.joyceyoungmediator.com joyce@joyceyoungmediator.com

Read More

28

Mar'16

The power of the circle growing wider

The power of the circle growing wider BY JUDY VAN RHIJN For Law Times Talking pieces, symbolic centerpieces, and opening rituals may sound like something out of an incense-filled prayer meeting, but they are finding a place in the resolution of the most modern disputes. The circle process is being taught and used among those who see that listening, and not just talking, is the key to resolving conflicts and building constructive ongoing relationships. The modern form of the circle process has evolved out of the First Nation tradition of using sacred circles to solve community problems. It was developed adapted, concept in the mainstream justice system by Barry Stuart who spent 20 years as a judge in the Yukon. Stuart has recently co- authored the book Peacemaking Circles: From Crime to Community with Kay Pranis and Mark Wedge, a book on circle philosophy and practice, published by Living Justice Press. It explains the structured parameters of the circle that allow spontaneous dynamics to develop. In Toronto, the most prominent advocate of the process is Peacebuilders International (PBI), which has taken and adapted Stuart’s learnings. Eva Marszewski is the founder and executive director of PBI. She was recently the recipient of the 2006 Law Society Medal and the YMCA 2006 Peace Medallion Award. Although the circle process has evolved from aboriginal practices with spiritual significance, Marszewski has removed this aspect from the process. “I don’t use anything of religious significance like smudging or sacred eagle feather,” she stresses. “It is too open to misunderstanding and it’s inappropriate for me to use it. It’s like the white man taking over sacred practices.” The circle process involves gathering all the interested parties into a circle to discuss an issue. It is the facilitator’s job to determine if the circle is an appropriate process and then make the circle safe and respectful. “It’s not a benign technology,” says Toronto mediator and circle facilitator Joyce M. Young. “Victims can be re-victimized. You must know what to do when there’s an upset.” The group gathers around a centerpiece that has some significance to the group. Often each participant is asked to add something, or the facilitator might ask for a specific contribution. When Young convened a meeting with an extended family that had not been in a room together for four years, she asked each person to bring two family photos for the centerpiece. “When they came together the centerpiece was a visual record of their family history,” says Young. “It was very powerful.” The process starts and ends with an opening statement, for which many facilitators use a reading, then the participants pass around a talking piece, which denotes who will be speaking. “A talking piece completely shifts the usual pattern,” says Marszewski. “If you get people to talk spontaneously, the conversation goes across the middle of the space. Apart from a round of introductions around a boardroom table, it is never in sequence. The most verbal peopIe take charge, and the longer it goes on, the more entrenched it becomes that the talkers talk and a the listeners listen. Marszewski often uses a toy microphone. “It makes a funny noise that people think is hilarious, but people are used to seeing people with a microphone have the floor. For young guys I might use a basketball, and when young children are involved, I use a stuffed toy. For judges I use a so fancy pen. The fancier the better. Then they’re all interested to see it and hold it.” This process is gaining. acceptance after the notable success of a PBI pilot project with youth in Toronto’s downtown St. Jamestown and Regent Park areas. Of 48 completed cases, 27 were resolved. There’s a need for all parts of the legal system to become aware of the process, so when it’s proposed for a client their lawyer knows what it means and what it’s going to look like. It’s not flavour of the month but it’s a new tool and a good one Young instigated one circle process in a housing project at Regent Park, which started. with the issue of garbage in the courtyard and quickly moved to drug dealers and gang-related violence. The circle involved tenants, staff, police, a private security firm, and a lawyer who attended on one occasion to explain legal rights. The process allowed the tenants to take control of their own living conditions. Young is now training people in the building to facilitate the process. Although circles have mostly been used for aboriginal and criminal justice issues, they are now being used in many other areas. “It has a lot of application in schools, workplaces, organizations, families, and communities,” says Young. She uses different types of circles to suit the situation – sharing circles, problem solving circles, teaching circles, sentencing circles, and healing circles – finding them effective to open up lines of communication that have been closed, sometimes for years. Young believes that the effectiveness of the process is due to “deep listening.” “People tend to speak very truthfully. The circle invites deeper conversation. It is more reflective and not defensive,” she says. “People are affected by what they hear.” The most recent PBI initiative involving the circle process is the Youth Circles Project, which was launched on Feb. 28. It is a new youth justice diversion project focused on cross-cultural conflicts, bullying, and gang- related violence funded through the Youth Justice Renewal Fund of the federal Department of Justice. It has jurisdiction to deal with matters covered by the Youth Criminal Justice Act and also authority under the Safe Schools Act to deal with suspension and expulsion. The project aims to train 45 volunteer lawyers working pro bono as youth circle “keepers” and pair them up with 45 mental health workers and 45 other community members such as elders and victims or their representatives, who will help youth maneuver through the legal justice system. There is also a comparable program through the Canadian Mental Health Association in cases where there is a youth offence and a mental illness problem. “There’s a need for all parts of the legal system to become aware of the process, so when it’s proposed for a client their lawyer knows what it means and what it’s going to look like,” says Y oung. “It’s not flavour of the month but it’s a new tool and a good one.”

Read More

28

Mar'16

MEDIATING HER WAY TO A NEW CAREER

MEDIATING HER WAY TO A NEW CAREER WHEN KAREN LE BLANC WAS A Journalism student she missed many classes to attend court proceedings and support battles on behalf of her three children. Since graduating in 2008, she’s managed to blend what she learned from those experiences with her communication training and the result is her recent success as a family mediator. As a mediator, Le Blanc helps families going through separation or divorce have difficult conversations and reach new, workable agreements instead of having to battle their differences out in costly, time-consuming court proceedings. The mediation process negotiates sensitive subjects like child custody support and the division of property with a goal to create a fair agreement. Once a couple has come to an agreement, Le Blanc is responsible for composing a memorandum of under- standing, which eventually becomes the separation agreement so a separation or divorce process moves along smoothly. As a fresh addition to the mediation services profession, Le Blanc was shocked when she received an invitation to an exclusive gathering called the Home Court Advantage Summit. With more than 120 judges, lawyers, mediators, mental health professionals and members of the public in attendance, the summit evolved from an in-depth position paper full of recom- mendations for fixing the previously confusing, slow and expensive separation and divorce process. It was written by the Ontario Bar Association, Alternative Dispute Resolution Institute of Ontario and the Ontario Association for Family Mediation and submitted to the Attorney General of Ontario in the early spring of 2009. The summit offers a final set of recommendations to improve the family law process in Ontario by providing early information, directing parties to the appropriate alternative dispute resolution avenues, providing better access to legal information and developing a streamlined and focused court process. Implementation of some of the changes began on March 1, which left LeBlanc at ease knowing Ontarians could have alternative options to nasty court battles. “I couldn’t believe this was the way the family court system was dealing with things. Mediation was the answer to how couples should separate,” said Le Blanc. “Being able to be a part of Canadian family law history was so rewarding.” Initially, Le Blanc was a self-taught moderator for friends and family dealing with separation issues, drawing on the knowledge gained from her own painful struggles and years of devastating court proceedings. She quickly realized she had all the tools and personal experience to become a family mediator and after extensive research, found a growing need for media- tors in Ontario’s family law system. Within three months of graduating from Durham College, she enrolled in the Conflict Management and Mediation advanced certificate program at Conrad Grebel University College, University of Waterloo, where she was taught by one of the best of the field, Dr. Barbara Landau, a psychologist, lawyer, accredited family mediator and arbitrator. Once she graduated, Le Blanc wasted no time opening up her own mediation services practice in her hometown of Port Perry, Ont. “The interview skills taught in the Journalism program were so beneficial to me – to be able to sit down and articulate clearly what other people’s feelings are in writing,” said Le Blanc. “Having an exceptional amount of writing and interviewing experience through the Journalism program has made my new career path a straight- forward transition.” With a new perspective on the family mediation profession, Le Blanc hopes to expand her services in the future so her unhappy past can be used as a learning tool for other Canadians struggling with family court disputes. DURHAM COLLEGE MEDIATION – ALTERNATIVE DISPUTE RESOLUTION (GRADUATE CERTIFICATE) PROGRAM The one-year Mediation – Alternative Dispute Resolution graduate certificate program is designed for individuals with previous education or work experience who are looking to gain the skills and knowledge required to deal effectively with conflict in various settings including: Advocacy; Community; Education; Healthcare; Human resources; and Justice The program also offers an in-house practicum that enables students o participate in the operation of campus mediation services as well as an outside practicum with a relevant organization.

Read More

28

Mar'16

Mediator can help ease the pain and conflict of divorce

LIFE Interview with Alan Proulx Mediator can help ease the pain and conflict of divorce By Meghan Balogh, Napanee Guide Thursday, August 2, 2012 2:44:03 EDT PM Going through a divorce is never a pleasant experience. But it doesn’t have to be the combative and hostile process that it too often becomes. A family mediation and arbitration service opening in Napanee is giving splitting couples a more affordable and peaceful way to quickly and efficiently separate, without damaging dignity or children. Allan Proulx worked as a banker for 17 years and also ran a regional airline at one point. After a long fascination with the concept of mediation, he took the leap and became a certified mediator, trained by award-winning clinical psychologist and family lawyer Dr. Barbara Landau and receiving a certificate from the Conrad Grebel College of the University of Waterloo. He is just getting Aequus Mediation and Arbitration off the ground in Napanee, and he feels passionate about the positive role this process can play during a terrible time in people’s lives. “If you go the traditional route, the toll is enormous,” says Proulx. “Financially, emotionally. If you do it through litigation it’s very adversarial, and you come out of it with no assets in the end.” Proulx says that the traditional divorce process can easily cost several tens of thousands of dollars, and the simple act of back-and forth, position-based negotiations between clients and lawyers can leave individuals feeling more hurt, combative, and angry than when the process began. And while divorce is by nature a polarizing event, mediation can make the process softer. “Is it painless? Not at all. It is, however, much more humane than being subjected to unending, angry, and exaggerated affidavits and adversarial demands and certainly a lot more cost effective, efficient, and faster.” Proulx as mediator acts as a neutral third party to bring together both individuals so they can resolve their differences in a collaborative way. He is not a judge or a decision maker, though he is also trained as an arbitrator if couples wish him to play that role. But as mediator he simply works to get couples talking and problem-solving for themselves. “The result is likely to be more effective than anything litigated or court-ordered, in that each person will have had equal input into a mutually acceptable solution,” explains Proulx. One major reason for going the mediation route, says Proulx, is in the interest of a couple’s children. Mediation is more peaceful, puts the interests of children first, and can often keep a couple’s relationship intact enough to allow them to continue to parent those children together, if not as a married couple. “My most important mandate as a mediator is to ensure that the best interests of the children are grounded firmly in any agreement or parenting plan….This is far better than relying on the courts to make a decision about a person’s life and the way they will raise their children.” Proulx is also a certified Divorce Financial Analyst, so he can work with couples and family lawyers to divide assets and discuss issues on child custody, access, and child and spousal support. Though the process is much more gentle than litigation Proulx still encourages the individuals to have their own lawyers, so that they can know their individual rights. “We do need lawyers to be part of the mediation process to ensure that each person knows their legal rights.” Once an agreement is worked out, which can take only a few short months if everything goes smoothly, then Proulx draws up a Memorandum of Understanding, which is then looked over by the spouses’ respective lawyers and signed by the individuals, making it legally binding. Mediation may not be for everyone — Proulx says he would have difficulty working with a couple who are experiencing high conflict or holding on to bitterness about the past. He takes couples on a case by case basis once he determines that mediation will help resolve disputes effectively, but feels very confident that, if couples can make it through this process together, they will reap great rewards as they go their own separate ways. “The help you can give people through mediation, it’s so humane compared to what they would normally have to do. This is the worst period of their lives. You’re hopefully making it easier for them in some little way.” For more information about Allan Proulx and Aequus Mediation and Arbitration, contact him at 613-354-2904 or aequusfamilymediation@gmail.com.

Read More
© 2016 Cooperative Solutions Inc. Site by: Creative Alternatives