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Helping families craft lasting solutions as certified family mediator

Toronto family lawyer Jennifer Samara Shuber has gained accreditation as a certified family mediator, using her broad experience in family law and social work to help couples craft lasting solutions to family disputes.

Shuber, a lawyer with Beard Winter LLP, has been conducting mediations for several years but pursued her accreditation to demonstrate her commitment to quality and professionalism to her increasingly "discerning" clientele. 

“They're looking for people who not only have experience but also have the qualifications,” Shuber tells AdvocateDaily.com. “I feel that being regulated and accredited by a central body shows the general public that you meet a certain standard.”

The application process is onerous, involving 100 hours of supervised mediation. The training includes useful and current information such as how to screen separating couples for domestic violence, she says.

While Shuber says she enjoys individual representation, mediation, and the ability to work together with both spouses, appeals to her.

“As a mediator, you're hearing both sides and trying to help the parties reconcile their positions so that they end up with a settlement that they have a hand in,” she says. “They're personally invested in resolution which, hopefully, will lead to settlements that last longer than those forced upon people by the courts.”

Most cases involving family disputes settle out of court, and Shuber says negotiation already plays a large role in her practice. But she says there is now an increasing demand for mediation.

“It’s becoming more unusual for people to go to court,” she says. Mediation can be appealing to cost-conscious couples who may choose to split the cost of a mediator rather than hire two lawyers, she adds.

“There are cost savings but it also depends on the nature of the dispute,” Shuber says. “There are some people who are more litigious. They want their day in court and a ruling from a judge. But those are few and far between.”

Sometimes it makes sense to go to court, she says, including cases involving a “power dynamic” not suited for mediation.

“But in many cases, if you give parties the tools and the information, they're able to work with the mediator to craft something that's theirs. They buy into it as opposed to being told how much support they will pay and how much time they will spend with their children.”

Shuber says while a judge will make custody determinations in court, many divorcing spouses want the ability to determine a long-term plan for their own family.

“They are your children, after all,” she says. “You know them better than anyone else.”

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