How does mediation work in British Columbia?
Mediation is a process in which parties to a dispute attempt to negotiate their own resolution of the issues with the assistance of a neutral, trained professional (the mediator). The mediator must remain impartial, and their role is to manage the dispute resolution process – the mediator cannot make decisions regarding the outcome of the negotiation.Mediation is often referred to as an “alternative” dispute resolution process. Personally, I find this term to be a little outdated – mediation is now quite a mainstream way to resolve conflict in a variety of disputes. In fact, it is increasingly being used as part of court processes to encourage settlement before matters reach trial. Here are a few examples where the laws in BC encourage the use of mediation in order to assist parties to resolve disputes outside of the courtroom:
Family Law Act: The Family Law Act, which came into effect on March 18, 2013, encourages parties to resolve family law disputes outside of court proceedings and actually indicates that out of court resolutions are generally preferred. The FLA contains new provisions allowing judges to order that the parties participate in mediation and other out of court dispute resolution processes.
Notice to Mediate: British Columbia has enacted several regulations that allow one party to compel the other(s) to attend mediation by serving a “Notice to Mediate”. There are several versions of these forms, each tailored to the particular area of law, including family law, most civil litigation matters, motor vehicle cases and residential construction.
Small Claims Court Mediation Program: This program provides mediation services in a limited number of court registries for claims of $10,000 or less. There is no extra cost to the parties to use the mediation program. It is available in Victoria, Nanaimo, Robson Square, North Vancouver and Surrey court registries. Either party can choose to mediate claims that fit within the criteria by filling out a form. More information on this program is available through the Ministry of Justice website.
It is also common for lawyers or even judges to recommend that parties try to resolve their dispute through mediation. Mediation provides an opportunity for people involved in a conflict to come to an agreement that works for everyone involved. It allows parties to have control over the terms of resolution – while there are always some compromises in mediation, the parties can choose for themselves where those compromises might be made, and come up with more creative solutions than a court would impose.
How does mediation work in British Columbia? Contact one of our lawyers in Victoria or Vancouver BC to learn your options. (250) 388-9477