Call for mediation applauded

TheStar.com – Opinion/Letters – Re:  Chief justice urges forced family law mediation, Sept. 15
Published On Mon Sep 20 2010 .  Desmond Ellis

During the past 17 years I have completed a number of research projects on the effects of participation in adversarial and collaborative family law proceedings. The results strongly support Chief Justice Winkler’s call for mandatory separation and divorce mediation.

At the same time, I would like to go beyond the “less costly in time and money than going to court” reason he emphasized by identifying additional reasons and specifying the minimal conditions under which mandatory family law mediation should be implemented.

First, mandatory mediation has been found to be safe, effective and efficient in a number of countries (Australia, U.S.) including gender-egalitarian countries such as Norway, Finland and Sweden.

Compared with participation in conflict-escalating, parent-alienating participation in adversarial proceedings, participation in collaborative proceedings such as separation and divorce mediation is less likely to increase the risk of lethal and non-lethal conflict-instigated domestic violence and suicide.

Additionally, such participation is more likely to yield durable, mutually satisfying parental plans and financial support arrangements because parents themselves determine the terms included in mediated agreements.

The specific conditions I have in mind are mandatory participation in family information sessions, the mandatory use of an empirically validated domestic violence risk assessment-management instrument, more effective mediator training on the dynamics underlying domestic violence and power balancing, as well as government regulation of the mediation profession.

Desmond Ellis, La Marsh Centre for Research on Violence and Conflict Resolution, York University

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