Why Family Mediators are invaluable during conflicts

Family Mediation

By Matthew McGrath

Three Young People Chatting Over Coffee In Bright Minimalist Design Lounge

Conflicts are inevitable. And our experiences around a conflict are shaped by how we resolve them. But to move forward, there needs to be resolution.

For families in conflict, their number one goal usually is closure, so that they may move on from a difficult situation. However, most of the time, this is forgotten due to heightened tensions and emotions. This can quickly lead to drawn out a litigation process that only prolongs the pain.

But there is another way. Using the services of a professional family mediator can help families resolve conflict in a practical, safe, and positive manner. A family mediator works with the goals of both parties in mind to arrive at an agreement that lays the foundation for closure and healing.

What is family mediation?

Simply put, it’s working with a professional mediator during family disputes to identify fair and reasonable solutions, and eventually strengthen relationships. Mediators bring their knowledge and experience of conflict-resolution to the table and empower both parties to arrive at a mutually beneficial solution.

The most important role of a family mediator is to open clear channels of communication and to establish a shared agreement on how things can proceed. Instead of going through the tension and frustration of family courts and litigation, mediation gives the ownership of the resolution back to family.

What are some goals of family mediation?

In tense situations like conflicts, mediators work quickly to first ensure the physical and mental well-being of all family members. They give everyone an equal opportunity to voice their opinion so that everyone feels heard and understood. This puts everything on the table and fast-tracks the road to resolution.

In family conflicts like a divorce, the children can face a lot of emotional stress. It’s difficult for them to endure such a situation and professional mediators are acutely aware of this fact. They prioritize the interests of the children and make sure that they’re not forgotten during the process.

Family mediation vs. litigation

Family mediators can reduce the financial burden on both parties by providing a more cost-effective and quicker way to resolution. This is in sharp contrast to litigation which can last for months, if not years, and extend the trauma that both parties are going through.

Litigation also takes the process out of the family’s hands, so at the end they’re just handed a judgement that they need to abide by. On the other hand, through mediation, the family can develop a shared agreement that is representative of everyone’s wishes and the mediator can then present this to the court for approval.

Mediation can also keep things private and peaceful for the family that’s going through such a difficult time. Family members can set up a schedule of meetings that works for them, rather than attending set court dates.

This is not to say that families arrive at a solution during the first session with a mediator. Even that can take several sessions but it’s better than the years a court may take to hand out its verdict. In fact, in some provinces like Saskatchewan, there is a mandate in the works for mandatory early family dispute resolution in family law issues with the help of mediators.

Family mediators make a marked difference in the lives of the people they work with and it’s a great field of work for many professionals including lawyers, paralegals, or social workers.

Becoming a family mediator

Family mediation is an unregulated field, meaning that a designation as an Accredited Family Mediator is not required to practice. However, gaining knowledge, emotional intelligence and practical experience through a professional program can help set you apart from other practitioners.

This is why the School of Continuing Studies worked with industry experts and accredited family mediation professionals to develop the Certificate in Family Mediation. Students work with highly experienced instructors through a series of dynamic, experiential learning opportunities, including role-playing sessions, which will allow them to develop their mediation skills and competencies, and improve their confidence as a new practitioner.

The program is available in two formats – a more flexible part-time certificate and an intensive 6-week full-time course for those who want to quickly join the field. Either of these options fulfill the training requirements for the Accredited Family Mediator (AccFM) designation with the Ontario Association for Family Mediation—the largest accreditor of Ontario family mediators.

Our family mediation graduates have the tools to affect lasting positive change that can alter the trajectory of any conflict and bring about a peaceful resolution, quickly and effectively.