For many couples, mediation can be used to resolve a number of separation and divorce issues. It is often the preferred method of resolution as it is less time consuming and generally much less expensive than going to court.

But are there consequences for refusing to attend a mediation?

In British Columbia, the short answer is “no”. However, if mediation is part of your agreement or court order, then it can be a mandatory requirement.

Before we dive too deeply, let’s take a moment to address some key questions.

Firstly, What is Mediation?

In Canadian family law, mediation is a process in which a neutral third-party mediator facilitates communication between you and your partner, to assist you in reaching an amicable, mutually-acceptable resolution to some or all of the disputed issues arising from your separation and divorce. It is a voluntary process that is mutually agreed upon by both parties. It is important to remember that although mediation may start as a voluntary part of your separation, this does not mean that it could not become a mandatory requirement at a later date if you agree it will be mandatory.

What if I Choose not to Comply?

In the event that you or your partner are required to participate in mediation through a consent court order or under your separation agreement, there can be repercussions if you refuse to comply.

With that said, it is important to note that this duty to mediate does not mean you have a duty to reach an agreement. If after giving it an earnest effort without significant progress, you are free to proceed with formal litigation.

Why would I choose Mediation?

In many situations, this form of resolution is preferable to litigation because it is less time-consuming and generally much less expensive than going to court. In addition, using mediation to resolve your issues helps you and your partner retain control over the outcome. In the event that you decide to take your case to trial, you hand over the outcome to the judge, who will make the final decision for you.

The Core Benefits of Mediation:

Cooperation

Mediation helps preserve and promote family relationships because it fosters communication and understanding while minimizing the conflict.

Narrowing the Issues

The mediation process involves identifying the core issues and areas of disagreement between the two of you, and exploring whether you can reach mutually-acceptable resolutions together.

Longer-Term Benefits

Mediation is far less time-consuming than traditional family litigation. It is relatively quick, less costly, more efficient, and often more final. The goal of mediation is for you to make the decision about what is best for you.

Flexibility

The process itself is also more informal and flexible than family litigation. There is no requirement to adhere to strict court protocols around evidence, documentation, and legal procedure.

Privacy

Mediation is a confidential, non-judgmental process, with an experienced mediator at the helm. The details of your case will be kept private. When successful, the outcome of mediation is a private settlement, which is a confidential agreement and can be kept out of the public domain.

Although mediation in British Columbia is not mandatory, it is often the best and most effective process for reaching a mutually agreeable resolution. Choosing to work with a family mediator can save you time, money, and undue stress that can arise when compared to a court case.