What is Mediation? Divorce in Alberta

A woman and a man sitting on a couch talking

Most people know that choosing divorce mediation means that they choose to not fight in court, but their knowledge of exactly what is mediation stops there. This is partly because many of us learn about divorce on TV. We don’t necessarily know what the laws and practices are around divorce in Alberta, or separation agreements in Alberta.

Keep reading to learn what mediation is all about. In this blog, I explain how being in mediation feels, and whether mediation may be a good fit for you and your ex. Also, I will explain how last month’s changes to the Divorce Act mean using meditation is now the law in some cases.

What is Mediation: My Definition

The general meaning of mediation is a process in which a neutral third party (the mediator) assist parties in conflict reaching a resolution. Mediators do that through active listening and open communication.

My explanation of mediation is a bit different.

To me, divorce mediation is about helping ex-couples have conversations that have been difficult for them to have one-on-one. It’s about encouraging them to say the things that need to be said, planning a future for themselves that does not include the other, and crafting parenting arrangements that put the kids first. Mediation allows for shedding the old and opening themselves up for the new.

I often tell my clients that mediation is hard work. A mediation session can be one of the most difficult meetings you’ll ever have, but it is also the most rewarding.

a Black couple in deep conversation. Even my most outgoing and relaxed clients come to mediation with shrugged shoulders, clenched jaws, and crossed arms.

They worry that they will be too emotional to properly express themselves, or that their ex will not agree to what they want. Some may even fear this process all together.

I almost always begin to see a familiar pattern. As they feel more heard by me as their mediator, as well as by their ex, they start opening up. The more they listen to their ex, the more issues they tick off the list as resolved. They begin to feel the cloud of worry and pain start lifting.

By the end of the session, they feel like they can breathe again. They have clarity about their future, they are worrying less about their kids, and they might even walk out the door with a small grin on their face.

Mediation is Worth It

Yes, going through the mediation process feels like walking through fire at times. However, this rite of passage helps clients avoid months or years of conflict, court litigation, and spending their hard earned money on lawyer fees.

It’s also now law. The new amendments to the Divorce Act imposes a duty by parents and the legal profession to emphasize what they refer to as “Family Dispute Resolution Processes.” Mediation is an integral part of that process.

Here are some more practical answers to some common questions I hear from clients

1. How does mediation fit into the divorce process?
As soon as you and your spouse agree that the relationship ended, and that you want to proceed with the separation and/or divorce, you can start working with a mediator.

2. What issues does mediation tackle?
Depending on your circumstances and needs, your mediator will suggest certain issues to include, like parenting schedules, child support, spousal support, and division of matrimonial property. You and your ex may choose to discuss other “non-tangible” topics. This can include how you will communicate with one another, how will you decide on kids’ activities, or an issue one of my clients chose this week: how will they plan their kids’ marriage ceremonies.

3. Does mediation resulting in a legally binding document that I can submit to court finalizing my divorce?
No, a Mediated Agreement (also referred to as Mediation Report or a Memorandum of Understanding) are not regarded as final legally binding documents. Read the questions on our Separation Agreements page to find out how TDS turns your Mediated Agreement into a legally binding document.

My Top Tip for Mediation Success

Interested in mediation, and you want to plan for a great outcome? Do this one thing before the session starts:

Go to the nearest bathroom stall (yes I’m serious), open your arms wide, and say,

I choose to be present today. I am ready and open to access my most authentic self, my core values, my best talents, and abilities. I’m going to really bring that self forth in this mediation session. I am also ready and open to listen with empathy and acceptance. I will work with my spouse, not against them.“

I firmly believe that taking the time to be present and accessing your most authentic self will make a big difference in the outcome of your mediation.

If this is something you’d like to learn more about, check out social psychologist Amy Cuddy. She also has a great TED Talk.

We at Trusted Divorce Services are known for compacting 3-year potential litigation battles into a 3-hour mediation session.

Contact us today to be connected to our mediator who can walk you through your options.

Tools To Have Better Convo’s With Your Ex

My husband and I had a fight last week. The kind of fight that you don’t think you will come back from. His parents are coming for a visit from Lebanon and we argued over where they will stay. Sounds like a shallow topic but there were some strong emotions and competing values that lead one to say the to the other; I don’t want to be with you anymore.

Read More »