Mediation suitable for some, not all family law disputes

By Staff

One of the reasons more couples are opting to settle disputes through mediation is that it allows them better control over the process, Toronto lawyer and mediator Eric Gossin tells Law Times.

“[In a court action], the accusations are in black and white for everybody to read. They’re staring you in the face,” says Gossin, partner with Devry Smith Frank LLP. “So, all of that acrimony is there on the surface. Whereas if you can get people in a room and they’re mediating, you can keep the tone down so that people can negotiate a resolution. They control the process, and that’s hugely beneficial.”

A recent survey of Ontario family lawyers by the Canadian Forum on Civil Justice shows Ontario family lawyers overwhelmingly favoured using mediation to settle disputes — over litigation, collaboration and arbitration, the article says.

“More than 89 per cent of respondents in the survey from Ontario said they used mediation to resolve disputes related to such things as custody and division of property and assets, the most of any province surveyed,” the online legal news outlet reports.

Family mediations often take more time than commercial mediations, says Gossin, who handles both in his practice.

“I can knock [commercial mediations] off in a half a day, day, two days,” but family mediations can take three or four meetings, he says.

Despite the advantages mediation offers, Gossin says it’s not for every couple.

“People have to be willing to buy into the process, commit to the process and make the decisions and the compromises necessary to prevent the matter from going to court,” he says.

In some cases, Gossin says relationships have deteriorated to the point where a mediated settlement is not an option.

“The level of distrust between a couple is so high that they don’t believe a mediator can ameliorate [it],” he says.

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