Divorce does not have to be stressful, time-consuming, and expensive. Mediation is an extremely effective, cost-efficient, and private way to resolve family law disputes.
Once you have reached a mediated settlement, you can use the uncontested divorce process to get a divorce order—without ever having to set foot in a courtroom. Let’s have a look at the advantages of filing for an uncontested divorce and the role of mediation in uncontested divorce cases.
What is an uncontested divorce?
There are two main types of divorce in British Columbia: contested divorce and uncontested divorce. “Uncontested divorce” is the process used when both spouses agree on all issues arising from their marriage, including significant issues such as division of assets and debts, parenting arrangements, child support, and spousal support. Since the spouses have come to an agreement on all family law issues, they can apply for an uncontested divorce. The court can finalize their divorce and issue a “desk order divorce” without the spouses having to appear in court or go to a trial.
The uncontested divorce process is quicker, less expensive, and less stressful.
What is a contested divorce?
A “contested divorce” occurs when the spouses can not agree on some or all issues arising from the breakdown of their marriage. In this situation, each spouse must set out their position on the contested issues in a Notice of Family Claim and ask the court to decide for them. The case will not be finalized until all contested family law issues are resolved—especially issues pertaining to your children. In some cases, a trial will be necessary.
Contested divorces usually take longer and cost significantly more, but that depends on the complexity of the issues and the reasonableness of each spouse.
What is mediation?
Mediation is an alternative to traditional litigation. It offers a less formal and more flexible approach to resolving family law disputes. A specially trained mediator works with the spouses to negotiate the settlement of disputed issues. The family law mediator will also meet with the parties’ lawyers during the mediation process. It is strongly recommended that you have a lawyer when you attend mediation, as your lawyer will ensure your rights and interests are protected. The lawyer can also address issues with the mediator and yourself as they arise throughout the day of mediation.
The mediator is a neutral third party. The mediator can not decide disputes or make decisions for the spouses. Instead, the mediator uses their specialized training to help the spouses focus on issues, find common ground, and work toward reaching a negotiated separation agreement. A separation agreement is a binding contract between you and your spouse that covers issues arising from the breakdown of your marriage.
It is important to note that BC family law mediators can’t provide you or your spouse with legal advice at mediation. Ideally, you should get independent legal advice from a divorce lawyer before starting the mediation and be represented by a lawyer at the mediation. At a minimum, you should have legal advice before signing any mediated separation agreement. A skilled divorce lawyer can explain your options, protect your rights and interests, and alert you to issues that might otherwise be missed.
What role is played by mediation in uncontested divorce?
Mediation can be the stepping stone that makes you eligible to apply for an uncontested divorce. If you and your spouse disagree on certain issues, all is not lost. You can use mediation to explore options to resolve any outstanding issues, such as property division, parenting issues, child support, spousal support, etc. Once you reach a mediated separation agreement, you can use the uncontested divorce process to finalize your divorce. The terms of the separation agreement you and your spouse reached at mediation can be incorporated into your Final Divorce Order.
Mediation brings you and your spouse to the table and encourages you to work together to find consensus and address the best interests of each spouse and your children, if you have any. Since mediation is less adversarial and more informal than court, it allows spouses to be creative in designing a resolution that is agreeable to both of you.
Can mediation help in contested divorce cases?
Yes! Even contentious divorces and complex issues can be resolved at mediation. Experienced family law litigators regularly use important tools such as mediation, arbitration, and negotiation in their practice. After family law litigation or contested divorce proceedings have been started, it is still open to the spouses to use alternative dispute resolution options, such as mediation, to attempt to resolve some or all of the issues in dispute. If resolution is achieved by way of a negotiated agreement at mediation, the spouses avoid the cost, stress, and expense of a trial.
Trusted advice and guidance to resolve family law issues
When the main goal is to come to a separation agreement that is fair to both spouses, even the most difficult issues can be resolved at mediation.
Fairness can be assured with the right guidance and experienced legal advice. Valerie M. Little has been a lawyer for over 30 years. Her specialty is family law. She is also a certified family law mediator. Ms. Little is skilled in providing solutions to resolve family disputes outside the courtroom and has experience in all family law processes, including litigation, negotiation, mediation, and the collaborative divorce process.
If you are looking for happy ways to resolve your divorce case, call Valerie M. Little Law Corporation today at 604-526-3333. Ms. Little assists clients throughout Metro Vancouver, including in New Westminster, Burnaby, Coquitlam, Port Coquitlam, Port Moody, Maple Ridge, Pitt Meadows, Langley, Surrey, Abbotsford, Chilliwack, Vancouver, North Vancouver, West Vancouver, Squamish and Whistler.