Whether you are just beginning to consider the possibility of separation or you are already
going through the process of divorce, you are almost certainly asking yourself: How am I going
to deal with all of these issues so I can move forward with my lives?
There are several options for resolving family law issues such as property and debt division,
parenting issues, child support and spousal support. Today we will compare and contrast two
options: mediation with “traditional” divorce also known as litigation.
Divorce mediation process in BC
When thinking about divorce, many people picture angry ex-spouses fighting it out in a
courtroom where one spouse “wins” and the other “loses.”
Your divorce does not have to be this way. Divorce mediation can be an excellent option for
separating spouses to resolve family law disputes in a way that is less stressful, less expensive
and more private.
At mediation, the parties to a dispute (you and your ex-spouse) and your respective lawyers sit
down with a neutral third party called a mediator. The mediator does not have the power to
decide any issues in dispute. Instead, the mediator’s role is to encourage discussion to reach an
agreement on what will happen with shared assets and debts, parenting time, child support,
spousal support and any other specific issues that need to be addressed in your case.
A mediator is impartial and can not give legal advice to either party. This is why spouses often
bring their own family lawyer to the mediation. Successful mediation ends with a mutually
agreeable resolution that is put in writing and signed by all the parties. The written agreement
can be a Separation Agreement or a Consent Order.
Litigation also known as “traditional” divorce
It is not always possible for spouses to negotiate and come to an agreement. Some divorces are
extremely high conflict. Some involve very complex issues that the parties are not able to sort
out on their own. Some are marked by a history of violence or a power imbalance that make
mediation unsuitable for these families.
In such situations, litigation is available. This more traditional divorce route involves bringing a
family law claim in the BC courts and asking a judge to decide the disputed issues arising from
the marriage. After the court case has been started, there are several opportunities for the
spouses to negotiate and even to attempt to mediate. If settlement is not reached, a trial is
held before a judge. Each party presents evidence at trial and asks the judge to decide in their
Divorce litigation is complex. Parties are bound by the rules of court and must follow the
formal procedures of the court at each stage. Legal arguments are made at trial to support the
relief sought. If you go the litigation route, it is highly recommended that you hire an
experienced divorce lawyer to represent you throughout the process and at trial.
Mediation vs. traditional divorce
There are significant differences between divorce mediation and divorce litigation that are
important to consider when deciding which option is right for you:
Decision-making power: The mediation process gives you control over how issues are resolved whereas a result is imposed on you by a judge if you use the traditional divorce route. You know your life, your needs and the needs of your children better than a busy judge ever could.
Customized solutions: Mediation is more flexible. It allows you to craft customized solutions and personalize the outcome to suit your unique situation. Judges are bound by the law which means the range of outcomes is more limited in divorce litigation.
Satisfaction with outcomes: Spouses who mediate generally report that they feel more satisfied with the outcome because they were able to give input and work collaboratively to reach a settlement that addresses their specific wants and needs. Divorce litigation, on the other hand, tends to leave both parties feeling dissatisfied. It is rare for one spouse to get everything they asked for at trial; usually, there is partial victory on only some issues which can feel like a loss. In some cases, the judge sides with neither party and makes an order containing terms that neither spouse asked for. This can be particularly devastating if you share children and wind up with less parenting time than you originally sought.
Timeline and cost: Divorce mediation is much quicker and much less expensive than divorce litigation. It can take months or years to finalize divorce litigation whereas in the best case scenario, divorce mediation can resolve issues in a matter of a single day or several sessions.
Privacy: The mediation process in BC is private and settlement negotiations at mediation sessions are confidential. Traditional divorce litigation is carried out in a public courtroom and any decision of a Judge is posted on the court’s website and thereafter published on various legal websites or case law books. Your full names may or may not be fully identified in the ruling depending if children are involved in your case or not.
Preserving relationships: Mediation is founded on collaboration and can improve communication between ex-spouses. Litigation is adversarial and tends to divide exspouses even further apart throughout the process. If you have children this distinction is of particular importance. Mediation may be the best option because it ususally promotes positive co-parenting going forward.
Which option is right for you?
A skilled and experienced family lawyer can help you choose the right strategy and provide you
with trusted legal advice when you are going through separation and divorce. Valerie M. Little
has been a lawyer for over 30 years. She specializes in the area of family law and divorce. She is
also a certified family law mediator. She has decades of experience inside and outside the
courtroom in helping her clients resolve their family law issues.
Ms. Little is especially skilled in resolving divorces outside the courtroom. She can use her
negotiation and mediation skills to resolve disputes and help you reach a resolution. Even
difficult issues can be resolved without going to court when the main goal is to come to a
settlement that is fair and reasonable for both spouses.
Valerie M. Little’s law firm is located in New Westminster and is right beside the Law Courts. Ms. Little assists clients throughout Metro Vancouver, including New Westminster, Burnaby, Coquitlam, Port Coquitlam, Port Moody, Maple Ridge, Pitt Meadows, Langley, Surrey, Aldergrove, Abbotsford, Chilliwack, Vancouver, North Vancouver, West Vancouver, White Rock, Richmond, Delta, Ladner, Squamish and Whistler.
Call Valerie M. Little today at 604-526-3333 to arrange your personal and private consultation to explore your legal options and to put a plan in place to allow you to move forward with your life.