The province of Ontario will now require divorcing couples to attend an information session on mediation, which will be necessary before their proceedings can go forward. This information session is meant to provide alternatives to the court system in the hopes that it will alleviate the heavy caseloads many courthouses are facing.
As reported by Ms. Kathryn Blaze Carlson in the National Post:
By mandating the information session, and by subsidizing mediation for couples who choose to forgo litigation, Ontario has joined an international push toward mediation and away from costly, time-consuming and oftentimes nasty litigation. Britain and New York’s Nassau County recently joined states such as Utah and Florida in requiring that divorcing couples attend at least one mandatory mediation session.
And while Ontario has not gone to that extreme, these latest measures are similarly aimed at reducing court backlogs and the impact of legal disputes on people’s bank accounts and children.
Quebec imposes a similar obligation on divorcing couples who have children. Indeed, the Quebec Civil Code of Procedure states that:
814.3. Except applications under article 814.9, no application that involves the interests of the parties and the interests of their children may be heard by the court if there is a dispute between the parties regarding child custody, support due to a party or to the children, the family patrimony or other patrimonial rights arising from the marriage or civil union, unless the parties have attended an information session on the mediation process and a copy of the mediator’s report has been filed.
Mediation requires the voluntary participation of two parties who are open to arriving at a compromise, which is not always the case with couples in the midst of a divorce. From another perspective, perhaps these sessions will strike a cord with those who have no intention of getting involved in a long and often expensive legal battle. It will certainly be interesting to see the effect of these two-hour information sessions on court backlogs.