Rules of the Court

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On November 1, 2010 the Alberta Rules of the Court were changed so that now, before couples can appear before a judge, they must have gone through a process of dispute resolution.

You see, judges usually begin their careers as lawyers and their training is therefore about the law. Unfortunately, individuals have gone to Court to resolve issues that could or should have been settled outside of the law.

I recently heard one judge from another province express frustration about the fact that Family Court's "busy seasons" are at Halloween and Christmas. He said "I don't care whether you want your child to be dressed as Lady Gaga or Madonna for Halloween. That's not a matter for the Courts.

Christmas is another time when couples tend to go to a judge (who is a strange to the family) to decide when and how children will celebrate Christmas after the parents have divorced.

I have found that one of the best solutions for situations such as these is to set up mediation for the parents. That way the two individuals who are in a room with a trained and impartial professional can work out a plan to resolve the issues that they face.

Mediation is not, however, about convincing the mediator or other party that you are "right". In fact, it is about recognizing what is best for the children and how they can have their needs met without having to take on stress from parents who are placing them in a tug of war situation.

When you enter mediation, you work with one professional (rather than two lawyers) to establish an agreed-upon Parenting Plan that can then be made into a Court Order.

One of the main benefits of mediation is that it places the responsibility for making decisions into the hands of the parents rather than into the hands of a judge who has never met the family members and doesn't have time to capture all the important details about the situation.

Over the past few weeks I have had many mediation clients tell me that they are relieved about the change in the law as they are very tired of having the other person repeatedly send subpoenas that require the parties to take time from work and childcare to appear before a judge - especially when the issues could be resolved in a mediation setting.

Of course, if mediation is going to be a good solution, you need to have individuals involved who are willing to act in a mature manner and truly put their children first.

Some people who are hurt claim that they never want to see or talk with the other person again. That just doesn't work when you have had children together. There are school concerts, graduations, weddings and grandchildren celebrations ahead and you are either going to have to miss them or figure out how you can attend without jeopardizing the celebration.

Mediation can give you a good start towards planning a future that improves on things of the past!


Dr. Linda Hancock, the author of “Life is An Adventure…every step of the way” and “Open for Business Success” is a Registered Psychologist who has a private practice in Medicine Hat. She can be reached at 403-529-6877 or through email office@drlindahancock.com


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