Bridging Family Conflict has been pleased to continue to provide services throughout the pandemic by utilizing the zoom virtual platform. Our MIP program remains amongst the most successful in the province and is completely online. Our mediation program for both onsite and offsite is also online via zoom and has almost doubled in use during the pandemic. We have also been increasing our use of the New Ways for Families program for parents in high conflict separation. We are providing a description and update on our services below.
Our roster of mediators includes Jennifer Suzor, Adam McKinley, Krista Konrad and Cynthia Nantais and the use of our services has almost doubled in the 2021-2022 year. We also have some interns in the process of finalizing their mediation accreditation very shortly and look forward to them joining the roster. On-Site FREE mediation services are available Monday through Friday each day. Counsel with any matter that is presently before the Court that day, or that week, can call the office at 519-946-0808 to arrange for a mediator via Zoom to help work out any issues or alternatively contact our Information Coordinator Kelly Christian. On-Site is designed to help with the matters on the court docket for motion or case conference where it appears a mediator can:
- work out a temporary order for parenting or support
- help with disclosure requests
- work out a timeline for next steps
Off-Site Mediation, for mediation that is more complex, can take place whether a Court action has started or not. Intake appointments are FREE and mediation rates are set in accordance with income and number of dependents. This makes it very affordable for families. It’s also important to note the following:
- there are no restrictions on what type of matters can be discussed
- where there is a high level of parenting conflict we can combine this with New Ways for Families (described below)
- billing takes place after sessions so no retainer is requested
- Legal Aid does cover mediation rates but most low-income families may only be paying $5 an hour
- families from all income levels can access this program
Court litigation does not reduce tension for families. The exchange of affidavits will not increase the likelihood that parents can work cooperatively together in the future. The New Ways for Families parenting coaching program provides each parent with their own coach from our roster of trained mediators and they each separately work through six lessons that help each parent learn how to use flexible thinking, manage emotions and make proposals to each other. The Children’s Aid Society frequently refers families to us for this purpose.
New Ways can be a stand-alone program for parents to complete and obtain a Certificate but it works best when it ends with a mediation session where the coaches, and their counsel if any, can come together and try and resolve the parenting issues. There is an optional session, discussed at mediation, where the parents then meet with their children and coaches so that the parents can explain the skills they have learned to their children. We have seen this work with a high degree of success as well. If you are curious about this program please do not hesitate to contact the office or IRCKelly Christian.
One last thing.
Mediation goes beyond the settlement of an action. Mediation has been shown to reduce conflict for families moving forward and research has shown that children are 28% more likely to speak to both parents 12 years later, with even short amounts of mediation. With recent changes to the Divorce Act and Family Law Rules, trying mediation “cannot hurt”. An important misconception that we hear is that counsel are concerned that clients will”sign something” with us. It is very important to note that if parties resolve any issues we would only draft a Mediation Report that is then for counsel to review: we do not draft any documents with signature lines. All of our reports are subject to the provision of legal advice.