TORONTO, ON – OCTOBER 16, 2018 – Many Ontarians are turning to family mediation, family arbitration, and the hybrid med-arb—all forms of Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR)—to settle their separations and divorces. Factors driving this are: clogged family courts across many parts of Ontario; the high cost of hiring family lawyers; and the perils of navigating family court as a self-represented litigant, with no lawyer.
Mediation is a well-known legal remedy for settling lawsuits in corporate-commercial law as well as personal injury claims. Corporations surveyed indicated that mediation saves them money (90%) and that it is better than litigation (81%).
The Family Dispute Resolution Institute of Ontario (FDRIO) promotes all forms of family dispute resolution, including court in appropriate cases. The week of November 19, 2018, FDRIO will host these three events in Toronto and communities across Ontario:
- FDRIO is having its 4th annual conference November 19, 2018 in Toronto. This year’s theme is “Through the Lens of Change.” Keynotes will be given by Aruna Papp (“Honour, Shame and Love: what Ontario FDR professionals can learn from a survivor of the culture of honour”) and Katherine Hensel (“Indigenous Families –Approaches to Conflict Resolution”).
- Inaugural Parenting Coordination Institute, on November 20, 2018, in Toronto at the Law Society of Ontario. FDRIO is the Ontario organization offering professional standards and certification in Parenting Coordination (PC), which helps separating couples with ongoing parenting disputes. Certified Parenting Coordinators are required to take extensive training, as parenting coordination is highly specialised.
- Family Dispute Resolution Week (FDRweek), with events for both the general public to learn more about family mediation, family arbitration, med-arb, and parenting coordination as well as events for ADR professionals. Free, public and professional events are scheduled in Toronto, Ajax, Etobicoke, Mississauga, Oshawa, Port Credit, Ottawa, among others.
Brian Kilgore, Senior Counsel
The Legal A Team
Mobile (416) 879-5771
Jana Schilder, Co-Founder
The Legal A Team
Mobile (416) 831-9154
by Jana Schilder as appeared in The Lawyer’s Daily on June 4th, 2018
“There has been a paradigm shift in family law, away from the traditional adversarial role of solving family law disputes,” Justice Gloria Epstein, a judge of the Court of Appeal for Ontario, said in her keynote address to more than 120 attendees of the second bi-annual Unconference, held May 3, 2018, at the Centre for Social Innovation and organized by the Family Dispute Resolution Institute of Ontario (FDRIO).
“In the last century, no one thought about ADR [Alternative Dispute Resolution]. Lawyers had but one tool; a hammer, and every problem they had resembled a nail. Separation and divorce were seen as issues that could only be resolved by the courts. Mercifully, that is no longer the case,” she said.
Justice Epstein explained that today, only about one per cent of divorce cases end up in court and about three per cent of all family law cases go to trial. Based on her more than 25 years of experience in family law, and her entire legal career of 40 years, she expressed the view that many of even that three percent may not need to go to trial.
“In a family law trial, often even the ‘winning’ party is worse off, financially and otherwise. The family is certainly worse off,” said Justice Epstein.
“It took us a while to realize that the way to solve the vast amount of matrimonial disputes is through ADR. FDRIO members have helped us move along that path,” she said.
Justice Epstein pointed out that the trend away from court-based adjudication is affecting other areas of law as well, not just family law. But in her view, ADR is particularly well suited to family law for a number of reasons.
“At its core, a family is not about law. A normal family is about relationships — emotional, physical, and financial. Family members focus on how they feel, what they’re going to do, where they are going to do it, and how they are going to pay for it,” she told the Unconference audience.
“Family members don’t normally engage in legal discussions, unless you are part of my family — two of my three children are lawyers,” she quipped.
“So, it follows that the solution to the problems of a family lies primarily in bringing a ‘new order’ to these relationships. Sure, there is a legal framework that informs this new order but the focus is on re-structuring interpersonal relationships of a family,” explained Justice Epstein.
Mediators, arbitrators, parenting coordinators, financial consultants, and divorce coaches are well-suited to helping a family re-define its new relationships, she noted.
Unlike commercial litigation, family law cases are not funded by a corporation. Every dollar spent on family litigation is after-tax money. Every day, as legal costs climb, the financial resources available to the family diminish.
“Think about it, by the time litigants get to me, they have already spent a fortune, sometimes a large fortune,” she told the audience.
“I personally cringe at the idea that the people in front of me must write a cheque for any of the amounts I order for costs at the conclusion of family cases. But legal costs are only part of the financial impact,” said Justice Epstein. Other costs include time off work, travel costs to and from court, babysitting costs. And, of course, at the end of the separation and divorce process, having to finance two households instead of one.
Then there is another type of cost — a longer term cost — to the family’s relationships.
“In a family law hearing, much ‘dirty laundry’ is aired. Nasty things are said in open court by people about whom they claim they have once loved,” she explained.
And then a judge, who only has a superficial understanding of the dynamic of the particular family, has to make orders about such important things as which parent the children will reside with, who will make the major decisions affecting their lives, whether the matrimonial home will be sold, and how the financial resources will be shared.
And frequently the most contentious part of any separation agreement is something seemingly simple such as pick-up and drop-off of the children. It is contentious because the person burdened with the most demanding transportation obligations frequently feels taken advantage of.
“All these issues are important to the parties and they need people like you, mediators, arbitrators, and parenting coordinators, to help them settle their matter,” she said.
While you are able to legally sever your physical and financial relationships with your spouse, you will be a parent to your children, forever. Down the road, there will be graduations, weddings, and grandchildren. People need to make a choice: those events can be stressful or joyful. The determining factor in this may well be how the separation is handled. This is why mediation is so well-suited to family law because it helps preserve those important family relationships.
Justice Epstein told a story of how she was judicially mediating an acrimonious and long-standing dispute between a husband and wife. While the couple’s children were now adults, the parents still argued over the finances. While with the parties in the courthouse hallway, Justice Epstein had a chance encounter with her ex-husband, who was counsel in another matter. It was clear he had a terrible cold. Justice Epstein dashed to her office for cold medication and a glass of water and they chatted amiably about her ex’s upcoming trip with his spouse.
When she returned to the couple, she explained what had just happened.
“And I told them, ‘When I get through with you, you’ll be on hugging terms with your ex, too’,” she said. The case settled.
Jana Schilder is co-founder of The Legal A Team, a marketing, public relations and social media agency for lawyers and law firms. She also wrote the book on public relations for lawyers, available at Lexis Practice Advisor (LPA).
by Vinita Puri
My name is Vinita Puri. I am a proud Social Worker and Family Mediator who has been working in the social service field for nearly 20 years. I have always been passionate about social change and restorative justice processes. Growing up in a South Asian home, I revered the concept of “ahimsa” or nonviolence. Violence is any type of harm done; intentional or no intentional to Self or Others. My personal values therefore align with Social Work and ADR principles and processes.
Social Workers add great value to the field of ADR (especially FDR). The training and skills I have acquired in the areas of bio-psychosocial assessment; interpersonal communication; psycho-educational treatment and therapeutic alliance building have helped me to foster healthier communication and dispute resolution between parties. The goal of any ADR process is to prevent or reduce further harm to self and others. This requires each party to reflect and evaluate on the nature of the conflict and the psychological manifestation of beliefs and thoughts which evoke emotional reactions and influence the way in which conflict arises. Education is fundamental to any Social Work practice. As the parties develop these skills, they gain confidence and motivation to apply them. Hence, these individuals will likely have productive and effective mediation if they developed conflict resolution skills beforehand.
Social Work practice provides a wide range of psychotherapy and psycho-education techniques to challenge cognitive distortions and wrongful appraisals of reality. Overtime, these individuals may be able to gain insight and awareness into their emotional responses and behavioural patterns. Social work within the mediation process can motivate clients to increase their awareness of how they may contribute to their relationship problems. This involves utilizing a strengths based, anti-oppressive approach to counseling which involves non-judgmental, neutral and empathetic support. Social workers see themselves as “helpers” not “experts”. In fact, a core value of Social Work is self-determination. In other words, individuals are the “experts” of their own lives and we are here to provide unconditional positive regard to empower individuals to creatively problem solve and develop resources to resolve their own problems.
In my clinical experience, I have found that victims and perpetrators of violence (physical, emotional, spiritual, social, economic, etc.) often get stuck in cognitive distortions and unhelpful thought patterns. It is the narratives that they have captured through emotional memory and the processing of their past traumas which influence the ways in which they appraise situations and ultimately how they behave. As a result, they continue to experience similar conflict and relationship discord and get “stuck”. Successfully addressing complex psycho-social problems can involve evidence based treatment protocols such as Eye Movement Desensitization Reprocessing (EMDR) and Dialectical Behavioural Therapy (DBT) to facilitate the processing of unresolved emotional traumas. Healing needs to occur within individuals so that they can relate to others in healthier ways. Individuals who do not take the time to reflect on their past and heal from old wounds get stuck in cognitive distortion patterns and continue to use infective coping strategies (e.g. substance use, self-harm, etc.) which can only serve to exacerbate problems.
In sum, I feel honoured and privileged to be a Social Worker who is also an ADR professional. I truly believe conflict is inevitable and that most people want to prevent harm to themselves and others. Despite this, many individuals find themselves chronically engaging in high conflict relationships. There are a range of biological, psychological and sociological risk factors as well as protective factors that can influence the ways in which individuals appraise the problems the face and the solutions that they are able to generate. As a Social Worker, I use comprehensive clinical bio-psychosocial assessment to explore and identify the root causes of conflict and distress that are causing harm to the individual and his/her relationships. With this awareness, I can work towards motivating clients to learn skills for effective communication and self-regulation. Developing these skills is essential to assuring the mediation process is successful.
As the Clinical Director of Relationship Boutique Inc., I have the opportunity to develop programs and services that integrate these values. The values of Social Work and ADR align with my personal and spiritual values of “ahimsa” or non-violence. For more information, please visit relationshipboutique.com