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 firstname.lastname@example.org.