A Tale of Two (ODR) Projects

♫ Mediate
Clear the slate
Now radiate
A perfect state

Liberate ♫

Lyrics and Music by Andrew Farriss (with help by Michael Hutchence), recorded by INXS.


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Two online dispute resolution (ODR) pilot projects are taking place in British Columbia at the moment.

The first is a distance mediation project sponsored by by MediateBC and is aimed at family law cases that involve issues between two spouses, partners or partners such as:

  • where and with whom children will live
  • how to share the cost of raising the children
  • how to divide the family assets, RRSPs or pensions
  • what to do with a family home
  • other concerns coming out of separation and divorce.

The process is private, informal and involves a family law mediator (a family law mediator must undergo special training in British Columbia to be able to use that designation). No special technology is necessary. If the parties have a computer with a web-cam, then the mediator can use web conferencing tools. Alternatively the parties can use email or even just a telephone.

The important aspect of this pilot project is to try to bring people together with technologies that bridge a distance in order to help solve real human problems and demonstrate ‘proof of concept’ of the idea here in British Columbia. By way of a precedent, Australia is successfully using these technologies in similar cases – and as we know, Australia faces many of the same challenges presented by having people spread out over a vast geographic area.

For more information (or to refer clients or even use it as a lawyer on behalf of clients) visit www.mediatebc.com or call 1 855 660 8406 (toll free, Canada and USA) or 604 660 8406 (Vancouver). A small correction to this post: While I originally stated that “There is no cost to the participants to engage in this pilot” that was incorrect. In fact, Susanna Jani, the Project Coordinator for this family mediation project, has advised me that:

A key goal of the project is to make family mediation affordable to everyone. Families using the service pay the mediators according to a sliding scale rate, which is based on their income.

Thanks for the correction Susanna!

The second pilot project is co-sponsored by the British Columbia Ministry of the Attorney-General as well as MediateBC and is aimed at civil (non-family) low-value disputes. While this second pilot project had a stated end-date of March 31, 2011 I believe it is still ongoing and accepting cases.

In order to qualify for this process both parties must be:

  • Based in British Columbia
  • Currently involved in a low-value civil (non-family) dispute; e.g., business-2-business or business-2-customer dispute
  • Willing to voluntarily participate in ODR
  • Willing to provide feedback about their experience; e.g., complete a short survey
  • Willing to complete their portion of the dispute resolution process,

among other conditions such as having access to a computer with Internet capabilities.

Anyone interested in participating in the project should email Ben Zeigler the ODR project case manager, at: odrbc@shaw.ca. There is no cost to participate in this project.

In both cases, using online mediation services should help parties activate, radiate, clear the slate and liberate themselves from their difficulties.

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