The failings of Ontario family law seem to be the flavour of the week in this province. Far from wishing to denigrate this attention, I simply wish to underline that this area needs sustained focus and, even more, a wide-ranging action plan.
Yesterday, the Globe and Mail editorialized, “Don’t tell us how to divorce”, that “[a] non-alternative alternative is coercion gone too far.” The Toronto Star took a different tack in, “Good advice on clogged courts” and supported the views of Ontario Chief Justice Warren Winkler who “wants to make it mandatory for feuding couples to first attempt mediation or arbitration — with early access to legal advice and financial data — and leave the formalities and complexities of the courts as a last resort.” And I published my own thoughts on mandatory family mediation in Mediation — It’s a Matter of Choice.
The report also found widespread skepticism of mandatory mediation, partly because mediators are poorly regulated and often untrained, and partly because the process that only works when both participants are voluntarily committed to it.
While I’m opposed in principle to mandatory mediation, I do hope the provincial government develops a comprehensive, inclusive and creative course of action to ensure that couples in Ontario have a greater and more informed choice of dispute resolution processes.