FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS

Before Mediation

We already agree.  Do we need mediation?


Mediation is a great process for those that agree already. I will work with you both to flesh out your agreement and help you work out the details of your plan together. Mediation allows you to build on your agreement as opposed to divide you in an adversarial process. As a family law mediator, I'll draft your agreement for you in neutral legal language so that it does not benefit either party. When you have a lawyer do the drafting, it is the lawyer's job to benefit their own client, so the language often benefits their client. Then the other person takes the agreement to a lawyer and their lawyer wants to change that language. That's starts a bit of a back and forth process to try to refine that language. It all takes time and money. The way I explain it is that I help both of you for 95% of the process and then once the drafting is complete, you can each take it to your lawyers for a final review. This allows you to split the cost, saving thousands in legal fees.




Do we actually need a separation agremeent?


Yes, if you have children and/or property together, then you need a separation agreement. First, it's a written record of the agreements you make. It ensures that you both understand it in the same way and that all of the details are ironed out. This decreases future disagreements, but also serves as a record of the agreement in case a dispute arises later on. Second, other professionals will need your agreement to facilitate the various transactions outlined in your financial settlement. Your separation agreement serves as instructions for lawyers, financial advisers, and lenders. A bank will not extend funds or refinance unless there is a signed agreement showing a finalization of the financial matters between you. A financial manager will not split your RRSP funds without a signed separation agreement saying that they can.




Why do we have to meet with you separately?


I have to meet with you each in pre-mediation meetings to assess the situation and figure out how to best structure the mediation session. I need to give each of you the opportunity to speak with me candidly about your perspective and this is really best done in a one-on-one session. An individual pre-mediation meeting is just part of the process,though. It's a professional obligation that I assess the situation for mediation in separate pre-mediation meetings. But, in almost every case, we are able to move ahead from there and our next session is where we come together.





During Mediation

I do not want to sit in the same room as my former spouse.  Can we mediate?


Yes, being in the same room is not necessary in order to have a successful mediation. My highest priority is that everyone is emotionally supported and feels relatively calm. If you are flooded with emotion or anxiety, you're not thinking ... and if you're not thinking, you're not able to make decisions. We are able to structure the mediation in a number of different ways. An online mediation is a great option. This is where we meet in an online video conference and have the discussion with that physical distance. Online sessions are a great option for separation mediations because it dulls the emotion and conflict and allows for mutual focus on the plan to move ahead. Sometimes shuttle mediations are a good option, too. This is where each person sits in a different room and I "shuttle" between you to help you reach a plan to move forward. These sessions can take a bit longer because I basically have to engage in the same discussion twice. Also, it can be a bit boring, because I'm working with the other person for half of time. But, when the emotion or conflict is high it works really well to finalize the details of the plan. There are many other options available, as well. We can talk about this in a pre-mediation and I can help determine how to structure the joint session to ensure everyone is well supported.




If we can't agree, will you just tell us what to do?


Well, no, not really. As a family law mediator I am able to guide you by discussing the law, tell you what other families do in similar situations, and how the law may be applied in your situation. This is meant to guide you both towards a solution. I might chime in with this sort of legal information if you can't agree or if you are having trouble coming up with options. But, I won't tell you what to do or make any decisions for you. In mediation you make all the plans and decisions ... together.




We've tried to have all of these discussions before and we get nowhere. Will mediation even work?


Mediation offers a structure to the conversation that you're not likely using in your living room. I have a very structured process to get you through the important topics and make the necessary decisions. The period between deciding to separate and actually having an agreement made is a very stressful time. People are often acting and speaking from a place of fear and anger. Mediation provides a supported environment to have an open discussion. That openness allows you to rise above the fear and into a zone where you can make some decisions. British Columbians will understand this analogy. You know when you get on a plane in the winter and after months and months of rain the plane breaks through the clouds and you can see the sun? I always feel surprised that the sun was there the whole time! That's sort of how I think about mediation ... for a period of time you're still under the clouds of uncertainty and fear. The structure of mediation will help you fly past that to find the solutions that were always there.





After Mediation

How long does it take to get the agreement?


It generally takes about 10 days to draft the agreement after the mediation is complete. Once all the invoices are cleared, I send out the agreement, all the documents you provided, and all of the calculations and spreadsheets we use in mediation. This way you have a full package of information for your lawyer to give you advice AND it's the same package your spouse takes to their lawyer, so you both get legal advice based on the same information.




I thought you were a lawyer.  Why do we need legal advice?


I am a lawyer. And, through the mediation process I am able to give you guiding legal information. I'll tell you what the legislation says, the policy behind the law, what other families do, and how the law might apply in your circumstances. But, I can't give you advice about what to do. That's because as a mediator, I must remain neutral and give you both the same information to help make decisions. You don't have to get independent legal advice, but I highly recommend that you do. It makes your agreement stronger and more reliable. If you take it to a lawyer it means that you had all the necessary information to make the decisions outlined in the agreement and you understood what the document said and the impact of your decisions. If you both sign it in front of a lawyer, it is pretty tough to overturn it in the future. So, you both can move forward with greater peace of mind knowing that things are finalized.




Is the agreement you draft legally binding?


Yes, once the mediation is done, I draft a legal separation agreement for you. And once that agreement is signed, it is legally binding. I use neutral legal language and clauses that are commonly used in British Columbia, so that your lawyer will be familiar with the structure and wording.





The Process Overall

How long does the process take?


I have designed the process to take about 3 to 6 weeks from the time you meet me in a pre-mediation meeting to the time you have a separation agreement in hand. But, this is an estimate. 80 percent of people will fall into this range. 10 percent will be faster - they have a simple situation and a low level of conflict. 10 percent of people will take longer - they have a complex situation and/or high conflict and so they require additional sessions. But, really, for 80 percent of people it falls in this time frame.




How much will mediation cost?


It generally costs between $3,500 and $4,500 for the pre-mediation meetings, the mediation and drafting the separation agreement. Each party is responsible to pay for half of the fees, unless you agree to another arrangement. For more details, the pricing estimates are outlined in the Pricing section here.




How does mediation compare in price to just hiring lawyers?


In my experience its much less expensive to use a mediation process because you're co-creating the plan instead of fighting about it. That in itself is the major difference. When you hire laywers you are paying them to get the best outcome for each of you. With that approach, it becomes a tug of war; and that takes a long time and costs a lot of money. It's also just the logistics of mediation that contributes to it's efficiency. In mediation, we book a meeting where everyone has dedicated the time and energy to working out a plan. We sit together and we roll up our sleeves and figure it out. We get it done. With hiring two lawyers, proposal letters go back and forth and it feels like there's never actual connection on anything. When I worked as a family lawyer, my assistant used to say, with a resigned tone, "It's like ships passing in the night" ... and it was! Letters would go back and forth and nothing seemed to ever happen. But, the invoices would keep mounting.
In my experience, at my old firm, I'd ask for a retainer of $5,000 to get the file opened. Nothing would happen for less than that and most often we'd be seeking at least one other retainer before the file was resolved. Mediation is half the cost, at least. I think the key really is that actually coming together and dedicating the time to work out a plan that works for everyone means it's done in a day. Less time = lower cost.





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©2020 by Rebecca Alleyne Family Law Mediation.