In a recent statement, the provincial government announced that it would be changing family law rules to introduce a requirement for early resolution of family disputes outside of court.
This would require families to consult a mediator and participate in mediation, before being allowed to proceed to preliminary proceedings and eventually to court.
The practice has been observed in some communities, but is now spreading across the province.
“Compulsory dispute resolution allows families to resolve issues before they go to court,” said Justice Minister and Attorney General Bronwyn Eyre. “This program, piloted in Prince Albert in 2020 and Regina in 2021, has been effective in reducing the financial and emotional impacts of separation and divorce on families and their children.
But family mediator and family law paralegal Michelle Linklater says the new rules will be great for families and gives an example of a recent mediation case.
“I was able to help the parties last Tuesday who both had lawyers unable to reach a resolution, and they had already started legal proceedings. They were coming to mediation because it was a jurisdictional requirement in Regina that they assist to another family resolution. So in essence, they were coming to me to get this certificate of attendance so they could continue with this process.
“I was told that they don’t think they can resolve this case in chambers or in pretrial and that they will seek to have this matter resolved at trial. As we know,” Linklater said, “Courts are heavily beefed up and I had called the court on Tuesday just to see the possibility of pre-trial and trial dates.”
Linklater learned that the pre-trial could not take place until late fall, in October or November, and that the actual trial would not begin until spring 2023.
When both sides reached resolution, Linklater says that because of their openness, the resolution took much less time.
“Both parties who came to see me, along with their lawyers, wanting the certificate of attendance requirement. When we were in our joint mediation settlement, I was able to resolve all of the parties’ disputes within two hours. We were able to come to an agreement.”
She cites this willingness to be open to the process as the reason it went so well.
“I don’t present myself as the person who can solve all the problems,” Linklater said, “I’m only good if my parts are willing to participate and commit to the process. I had parts that were ready to come to the table and try the process.”
The new change is due to come into effect on July 1 – low-income options are also being offered by the government in certain situations.