Here’s a very cool new poster from the New York Peace Institute, a not-for-profit agency serving residents in Brooklyn and Manhattan:
Florida attorney and family mediator, Diane Danois, recently set out a number of myths and misunderstandings that may affect decision making when separating and divorcing:
#1 Myth: Using a mediator precludes me from consulting with a lawyer.
#2 Myth: The first step is filing and “serving” my spouse.
#3 Myth: I have to resolve all of our issues in mediation.
#4 Myth: I have to be in the same room as my spouse.
#5 Myth: I won’t be able to consult with experts (accountants, realtors, etc.) to help me make final decisions. I will be all alone in my decision-making, and won’t get what I deserve.
#6 Myth: I will be getting legal advice from a mediator, instead of a lawyer.
None of these statements is correct in Florida (or in Ontario for that matter) as Danois explains in her recent article on The Huffington Post.
Sabine Walsh is a certified International Family Mediator based in Ireland and reports on how mediation can support parents in cases of international parental child abduction, “where one parent brings the child or children to another country, often their country of origin, without the other parents’ consent“.
Mediation however offers a number of specific advantages to parents in the context of a child abduction case. One of these relates to the scope of the dispute. In general, in cases taken under the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction (1980), to which 86 countries are parties, the only issue that can be decided by the court is whether the child or children should be returned or not returned to their state of habitual residence. This means that the court has no jurisdiction to decide any other matters relevant to the future of the family, such as custody, access, maintenance or any other matters that might require a decision in order for the family to move on. A new set of proceedings to decide such matters must be commenced in the relevant state, depending on where the child and the parties will live. This means, in effect, that at least two sets of legal proceedings in two different courts, possibly in two different countries will be required to regulate the circumstances of the family after the abduction. In mediation however, the scope is determined by the parties, not by legal rules, and therefore all matters relating to the dispute can be addressed. In practical terms this means that the parents can address not only where the child or children will live, but all other arrangements such as contact with the non-resident parent, a parenting plan, and financial matters. Not only will this save the family time and money, but it can significantly reduce the stress on everyone, in particular the children. (emphasis added)
She also identifies best practices in international family mediation:
The first hallmark of international family mediation is that it is carried out by co-mediators. The co-mediation team should ideally consist of one male and one female mediator, one from each of the parents’ countries, and one being from a legal and one from a psycho-social background. This is not always achievable but at the very least, one mediator should be from each of the parties home countries. In an Irish-German family, for example, one mediator should be Irish and one should be German. Both joint sessions and caucuses are used in this type of mediation, and sessions are usually scheduled over a period of three days approximately. Very importantly in cases of child abduction, arrangements are often made for the left behind parent to have contact with the child at some stage during, though not actually in the mediation. The voice of the child or children will usually be brought into the mediation, either directly or by means of an interview with a third party such a psychologist or social worker. The parties legal representatives are actively involved at all stages, particularly when it comes to drafting the agreement, and translators or interpreters may also sometimes be used, though it is generally preferable if a common language can be found to mediate in.
You can read Walsh’s entire report here.
Last Tuesday, May 7th, the report of an 18-month research project that examined the experience of 259 self-represented litigants in Ontario, Alberta, and British Columbia was released.
Author of the study, Julie Macfarlane, a law professor at the University of Windsor, notes:
“People aren’t doing this because they woke up one morning and thought, ‘I think I fancy myself as (TV lawyer) Perry Mason [...] ”They’re doing it because they cannot afford to pay a lawyer. This isn’t about choice: this is about necessity.”
One of the report’s key recommendations is the need to recognize “that self-represented litigants — by necessity — are now a permanent part of the justice system.”
Flowing from this central recommendation are related proposals:
- “develop[...] low-cost support services for [self-represented] litigants, many of whom simply want guidance and coaching
- “the law community [should] consider creating more choices for clients in accessing lawyers — in particular in the financial structure of legal services [and]
- [there should be] “an “open-minded re-examination” of the rules that protect the role of lawyers while limiting the roles of other legally trained professionals.”
The complete Canadian Press news report of this study can be read by clicking here.
One of our favourite sites for information about family law in Ontario is called Family Law in a Box. Just today, the site published a useful list of tax credits that may be available for families in Ontario:
1. Child Tax Credits - This federal credit can save you up to $329 for each child under the age of 18.2. Canada Child Tax Benefits - The federal CCTB is calculated for July to June yearly and could bring in to a low-income family with two children up to $555 in additional savings. [...]3. GST Credit: This federal tax-free quarterly payment helps individuals and families with modest income offset all or part of the GST that they pay. To receive the GST credit you have to apply for it every year.4. Child Fitness and Art Tax Credit – At the federal level, for each child under 16, parents may claim a tax credit of up to $500 registered in a sport like ballet, hockey and soccer and another $500 for artistic and cultural activities, like art or music lessons. In addition, the Ontario government offers the Children’s Activity Tax Credit where you can claim up to $526 in eligible expenses and get up to $52.60 back for each child under 16. You can receive up to $105.20 back for a child with a disability who is under 18.5. Universal Child Care Benefit – The federal UCCB provides families with $100 per month for each child under the age of 6 or $1,200 per child, per year.6. Eligible Dependant – If you were a single parent during 2012, you may be able to claim an eligible federal dependent tax credit for one of your children which is equivalent to claiming a dependent spouse. However, whether or not you receive spousal support you are entitled to this credit. [...]7. Child Care Education – Child care expense can be claimed to the federal government when you hire a babysitter or put your child in a daycare or summer camp to enable you to go to work (or attend school). If you enrolled your child in a fitness program or summer camp, which operates during the hours you are working, then you must first claim the cost as a childcare expense.8. Medical Expenses – Save your receipts whenever you buy glasses for your children or take them to the dentist as you may claim them at the federal level. If you have a group health insurance plan at work, then only the portion that is not reimbursed is available for you to claim.9. Child Disability Benefit - The federal and provincial governments provide child disability benefits. If you believe your child is eligible for this benefit, ask your doctor or occupational therapist to complete a Disability Tax Credit form.10. Tuition Tax Credit – The federal government offers textbook amount and scholarship and bursary exemptions. Also, if your child attends a university or a private school, you may claim the applicable tax credits from the Ontario government.
[a]sk prospective mediators questions like these to assess experience, depth of training and education, and adaptability:
- Do you have approaches or tools you usually use? Tell me about them. You’re looking for answers that convey a complexity of thinking and practice, not rote mimicry.
- Describe for me how your mediations typically unfold — what does it look like? Ask yourself if what they described makes sense for you and your situation. If it doesn’t, ask them…
- Do you vary that approach in circumstances where it may not work as well? Savvy mediators will not be thrown by this question.
- Tell me about the philosophy that guides your work. Look for a fit between what they describe and what feels right to you. If they can’t answer the question, that’s a red flag — it suggests they’ve never thought about it or have too little training to understand that all mediation approaches have underlying values and philosophies.
All of these questions go to the matter of what’s termed in the field, mediator style. Many mediators will say that their style varies depending on the conflict, the setting (e.g., workplace, family, etc.), the parties, etc., that they have a toolbox of skills that they apply to different situations.
Claims that mediators can be eclectic and flexible across styles, blending and switching styles at will, are popular among mediators for many reasons (Della Noce, 2008). But it is not clear what these mediators are supposedly switching and blending: skills, tactics, repertoires, goals, values, or styles. I suggest that the image of the eclectic and flexible mediator makes sense only at the level of decontextualized skill (thus, the popular notion that mediators are neutrals who come equipped with their vast box of tools for intervening in conflict). The image makes far less sense if mediators are understood to be acting intentionally and in a goal-directed way from a core set of their own values when they intervene in conflict—that is, from their own vision of what is good in human interaction and what is good in conflict (Bush & Folger, 1994, 2005; Della Noce, 2008). Core values about the nature of human beings, interaction, and conflict tend not to be quite so eclectic and flexible. For research purposes, the issue could be explored by first taking account of differences in goals and values among mediators, creating groups of mediators based on these differences, and then comparing behaviors within and between the groups for patterns of similarity and difference (compare Della Noce, 2002). Of course, it will be found that mediators share some tactics; they share a language and the same communication tools at the skill level. But, if the analysis is bumped up to more complex thinking about strategies, repertoires, goals, and values, we can expect to find some striking similarities within groups and differences between groups (Della Noce, 2002; compare van Dijk, 1998). Those findings will enrich our discussions of mediator style and its implications.