An Inside Look at Family Mediation

(Transcript of video)

Note: This video clip is excerpted from a 2-DVD set created by the Continuing Legal Education Society of British Columbia. The complete DVD can be ordered from their website.

Caption: Family Mediation — Seeing Eye to Eye

[Dean and Saya seated, talking, on separate screens]

Voice-over: When people part they still share competing interests — in children, in property, in the future. It can be difficult to come to terms, to see eye to eye. It can be easy to fall into conflict. The goal of family mediation is to help families build understanding and reach agreement and to reduce the conflict and costs of coming to terms. It is a multi-layered strategy, designed to accommodate different people and situations.

Caption: Mediation — Starting the Process

Voice-over: The first step for the mediator is to interview the couple separately to see where each is coming from.

[Mediator seated with Saya]

Mediator: Are you ready to go?

Saya: Yeah.

Mediator: Okay, good. Well, what I always do in my mediations is have a separate time with each of you before we decide to go ahead to a joint session. Making sure that mediation is the right choice for you, and just getting a perspective from you about what you see you need to work on in mediation and just to get your viewpoint.

Saya: Well, I'm here because he won't work out what needs to be worked out. He is not dealing with me on the house. He thinks everything's fine and it's not. We have huge problems and he won't even look at them.

[Mediator seated with Dean]

Dean: Well, basically I'm here because we haven't spoken at all, and Saya seems to think we need to do something and I don't want to go to court.

Mediator: Okay….

Dean: I'm trying to avoid paying, as much as I can.

Mediator: Yeah, and the court stuff usually only happens when you're fighting and you can't resolve the fighting. So mediation is a way for you to try to work through the differences here in a more peaceable way. And hopefully it will help you get to a settlement and you'll have some resolution and you won't have to go to court. Okay? That's the goal.

Dean: Okay. [Dean nods his head]

Mediator: Yeah …. Okay?

Dean: Yeah.

Caption: Joint Mediation Session

Voice-over: The next step is a joint session where the goal is to get the couple to talk to each other and air their concerns.

[Mediator seated with Dean and Saya]

Mediator: So you're both struggling, it seems to me, with, you know, "How can we be a parent" to your daughter, how can you be the best parent given that you're in separate homes right now? And you each probably had this different parenting style when you were in the same home, right? And it worked just fine because she had that all the time. [Turns to Saya] Now that you're in separate homes it seems to me like you're concerned that you're not having a chance to influence her in the way that you would like to.

Saya: Mm-hmm.

Mediator: Yeah. [Turns toward Dean] And you're saying, "She's a teenager. I'm not fully understanding what she's doing, but that is not a major issue for you…."

Dean: No.

Mediator: "….What she calls herself."

Dean: No, what she calls herself isn't a major issue for me. That — that I don't always understand what she's doing is something of an issue.

Saya: Well, I'm glad to hear that…. [Mediator nodding] …. Because I think there is things, there are things that she is doing that you don't know about. And she's with you more, which is part of the reason why I am here, and you're not watching her.

Dean: What is it that she's doing that I don't know about?

Saya: Well, have you not seen the, the black clothes she's taken to?

Dean: Of course I've seen the black clothes that she's taken to.

Saya: Well…. And she's calling herself a cat. There's something not right about this whole picture. I mean, she's angry all the time.

Dean: Of course she's angry….

Saya: She's not just angry….

Dean: ….Her parents split up.

Saya: That's not the only reason she's angry. She needs time and attention and she's not getting it.

Caption: Mediation — The Role of the Mediator

Voice-over: The role of the mediator is to keep the communication moving forward in a cooperative way.

[Mediator seated with Dean and Saya]

Dean: But when we talk on the phone it's like, "Tell your dad this, and then let's talk about all this other stuff. Let's talk about how I don't like your girlfriend, let's talk about …" It's not just practical matters that you want to talk about. And I'm not always willing to do that just because you decide that it's time.

Saya: Uh, yeah, and so what's happening as a result is that any concerns that I have with you about your girlfriend, they're not getting addressed. She is influencing my kids. I have a say in that.

Dean: And whose fault is that?

Saya: That's your fault.

Dean: How is that my fault? Because you don't like her.

Saya: Because you brought in a 23-year-old baby to try and guide my kids.

Mediator: Okay.… [Trying to interrupt]

Dean: And you decided that you didn't like her, and that's it for you.

Saya: She's 23….

Dean: So you don't like 23-year-olds?

Saya: ….It's like having another teenager.

Mediator: Yeah, this is hard. This is hard for both of you, and let's just kind of pull it back a little bit and try to slow that down. [Turns to Dean] It sounds like you're saying, "I do want to talk about the communication and the messages and the pickups and deliveries and issues around the children. I don't want it suddenly to become a discussion around my new girlfriend."

Dean: No, I don't.

Mediator: Okay … [Turns to Saya] You're saying, "She impacts this, she's part of this whole ..."

Saya: Mm-hmm.

Mediator: "…package here, and we need to find a way to talk about her as well." [Writes on her notepad] So let's just put that in, that you need to have some sort of discussion as well around, um, [Turns to Dean] just your involvement with your new relationship and how she fits with the kids.

Saya: Or doesn't fit with the kids.

Mediator: Because your relationship basically is going to be private…. [Gestures toward Dean, then turns to Saya] ….Just as when you'll have future relationships, they'll be private.

Saya: Mm-hmm.

Mediator: But at the same time, how they impact the kids is something that affects all of you.

Saya: Mm-hmm.

Mediator: So you may need to discuss that a little bit today.

Saya: I think so.

Mediator: Yeah.

Dean: Okay.

Mediator: Okay.

Dean: Here again.

Caption: Sally Campbell, Mediator

[Mediator speaking to audience]

For me the bottom line is that they go away feeling that they are able to get on with their lives, that they've made some progress in bringing closure to their marriage as spouses and they've made some good progress and beginnings to redefining their relationship as parents, and recognizing that it's ongoing so that they need to continue and will continue talking. This is going to build, help them build on that.

Caption: Joint Mediation With Lawyers

Voice-over: Some situations require the help of lawyers.

[Mediator seated with Dean and Saya and their lawyers]

Mediator: So I think we had a good session the other day with just the three of us there and you worked through a number of issues around the children and how you're going to communicate better around them, regularly. You're each going to…. [Mediator looks toward Saya] You're going to be spending more time with them, and you're each going to be spending more time with them separately.

Saya: Mm-hmm.

Mediator: So, hopefully there is some agreement and some way to go forward around the children. My understanding from discussing with your lawyers is that today you would like to really focus on the house and what to do about that because that's the major piece of joint property that you have…. Okay?

Saya: Mm-hmm.

Mediator: Okay, good. So that's where we're going to start today.

Caption: Mediation — Meeting With Lawyers

Voice-over: Typically, lawyers will meet with their clients before they come together in a joint mediation session.

[Dean with his lawyer]

Dean's lawyer: I'm sorry about that, but the goal here is damage control, and it's not useful for you to be unrealistic and think that you can hang onto your house and cost yourself a lot of money in legal fees pursuing an unrealistic goal. I think what we have to do is accept reality — the house has to be sold — move towards that reality sooner rather than later and just save your money, because the longer the dispute remains unsettled the higher your legal fees will be.

Caption: Mediation — Reducing Cost and Conflict

Voice-over: During the joint session the lawyers advise their clients individually and work jointly to foster agreement with a minimum of cost and conflict.

[Mediator seated with Dean and Saya and their lawyers]

Dean's lawyer: So can I just clarify, Terry, you said $1,000 a month on an ongoing basis for the duration. What is the duration you're looking at?

Saya's lawyer: Well, I think at this point, I don't know where you're coming from, so I would have to say that it would be the outside piece of the same length of the marriage, seventeen years.

Dean's lawyer: Hmm …. We may have some difficulty with that.

Dean: Yes.

Dean's lawyer: That would effectively have Dean supporting Saya until she's fifty-seven. It seems a little lengthy.

Saya's lawyer: Well, as I say, we don't know where you're coming from at this point and I'm trying to be reasonable. We're here to negotiate. We wouldn't come here today if we had a firm, fixed position and we're heading off to court. But we need to hear from you.



Dean: Lorne Sutherland

Mediator: Sally Campbell

Dean's Lawyer: Gayle Raphanel

Saya's Lawyer: Terry Harris

Dylan — Darieos Katsanakakis

Counsellor — Ellen Shapiro

This video project was funded by a Law Foundation grant to Continuing Legal Education.

Special thanks to Jack Huberman Q.C. for making it possible and Ron Friesen and Mary Kingston of CLE for their support.

Produced by: Fred Cawsey — Front Runner Productions

Presented by: The Continuing Legal Education Society of BC

With funding from the: Law Foundation of BC.

Caution: The Continuing Legal Education Society of BC (CLEBC) resources are offered as an aid to developing and maintaining professional competence with the understanding that the resource people and (CLEBC) are not providing legal or other professional advice. Law is constantly evolving, changes in practice and procedure occur frequently. You must exercise your professional judgment about the correctness and applicability of the material. Please refer to the relevant legislation, case law, administrative guidelines, and other primary sources. The views and conclusions expressed in this resource are those of the resource people and not necessarily those of CLEBC.

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