Frequently Asked Questions

1. What is collaborative family law?

Collaborative family law is a dispute resolution process that enables couples who have decided to separate or end their marriage to work together with their lawyers and, on occasion, other family professionals to reach an agreement on issues of concern to their family.

The process attempts to remove the adversarial element of divorce/separation and replace it with collaborative elements of respect and team problem solving.

There is a very defined process that is followed by all involved, which begins with the couple signing a contract (called the "participation agreement"), committing to the voluntary process and disqualifying their respective lawyers’ right to represent either one in court. (In other words, if the collaborative lawyer process doesn’t work, you need to find different lawyers to represent you in court.)

Throughout the process, the couple is supported by a team of experts as required, such as mental health professionals, financial advisors, and child specialists. The lawyers are specifically hired to help the parties resolve their dispute (as opposed to booking a court time with a judge). The lawyers and the couple come together in four-way meetings to resolve and discuss the issues. Once all the issues are resolved, one of the lawyers writes the separation agreement to be signed by both parties. The lawyers use mediation skills to help their clients reach an agreement.

2. What is mediation?

Mediation is a cooperative problem solving process where an impartial third party assists the parties in dispute to identify the issues that need to be resolved and to develop and consider the options, ultimately resulting in a detailed agreement.

3. What is the mediator’s role?

The mediator facilitates the negotiations (remaining impartial), builds consensus, and manages power imbalances between the parties. The mediator helps the parties prepare for mediation and consider various settlement options. The mediator then records agreements.

4. What happens at mediation?

Mediation meetings can take a variety of forms. The parties can be in the same room, separate rooms, or can meet using technology, by phone or videoconferencing, depending on what the mediator and the parties agree is the best way to try to resolve the dispute.

In family and child protection meetings, the mediator will meet with each of the parties separately before the mediation for a pre-mediation orientation, help develop an agenda to discuss topics of concerns, and help the parties reach agreement.

In civil mediations, often there is a joint meeting with all the participants and their advisors present. It is often the first time that they are in the same place at the same time ready to discuss their dispute. Separate meetings may also occur between the mediator and individual disputants, lawyers, and other participants, before or during the mediation.

5. How many meetings are needed?

Factors that influence the amount of time needed to mediate include the level of trust, the context of the dispute, as well as the number of and complexity of each issue.

Mediation meetings usually last for at least a half day, but they can require an entire day or several days; sometimes the process can take between 3 to 5 sessions of 2-hour mediations.

Some disputes can be resolved at one joint mediation meeting, but the length and number of mediation meetings varies from dispute to dispute.

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6. Who attends the meetings?

Whoever needs to be present to reach an agreement attends the joint mediation meeting. Those who need to be present are the disputants, who are often accompanied by their legal advisors.

7. How much does this cost?

The direct costs of mediation are the mediator’s time, disbursements such as room rental, photocopying, long-distance charges, refreshments, and any relevant taxes. Contact Shelina to discuss hourly and daily rates.

8. Do you accommodate co-mediations?

If there is an issue that requires co-mediation, Shelina can accommodate the requirement. She is well connected in the community and will be able to work with the parties, co-mediators, and lawyers.

9. What do these terms mean?

Uncontested divorce
An uncontested, or sole divorce, is also known as an undefended divorce. This is where one spouse is the Plaintiff (or Petitioner) and the other spouse is the Defendant (or Respondent). The documents are signed and filed by the Plaintiff and served upon the Defendant. The Defendant has a period of time to respond to, or defend, the divorce action. If the Defendant does not respond to the divorce action, then the divorce is considered to be uncontested.

Joint divorce
When both you and your spouse are in agreement and you both are willing to sign the divorce documents, then you can  proceed with a joint divorce. This eliminates the need for service of the documents upon your spouse and can save you time and money.

10. Can you help change Court Orders if parties consent?

If you have reached an agreement to vary a Provincial or Supreme Court Order, Shelina can help you complete the documents that need to be filed to change your Order as long as both parties consent, without the need to appear in court.

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Contact Shelina to discuss your collaborative family law & mediation requirements.