John G. Goodwin Family Mediator/Collaborative Family Lawyer/Family Lawyer
Call us at: 613-236-0662
When issues arise in families, win-win / respectful approaches often provide the best outcomes for all.

Ottawa Family Law Blog

How to Choose a Family Law Process?

As family law professionals, we are asked by clients for advice and recommendations on choosing a process. How are they to choose? At this point, we need to consider and discuss all process options including family mediation, collaborative family law (CFL), arbitration, lawyer - lawyer negotiation or litigation. And to do this, we need to be reasonably familiar with all of the processes in order to give helpful advice.


Highly competitive (It's black - no it's white, $200 more-no $200 less, you can't prove it - yes I can).

Highly annoyed.

Highly irritated.

They came to mediate,

Sitting down with perhaps the last person they would otherwise choose.

Lawyers as Peacemakers

I know that this concept (lawyers as peacemakers) may be a bit of a hard sell but stay with me for a moment.


Most of us were not trained in dispute resolution/peacemaking at law school.

In fact, we were taught an adversarial system approach at law school and in our early years of practice this type of learning continued.

Family law itself started out as part of the adversarial system - family law cases were handled by general civil litigation lawyers as just another type of dispute.

And most of us had no training in listening - our communication model was not "talking and listening" but "talking and waiting to talk".

Success in Mediation

Many people think that "Success" in mediation means a completed and signed separation agreement.

That is certainly one way to look at it but it misses a lot of other ways we can succeed in mediation:

1. Mediation can help the parties establish new respectful and effective ways to communicate about their family.

2. Mediation often helps to re-establish trust in the other party that was eroded over the years and maybe especially around and after the separation.

Power Imbalances - How We Deal With Them - 10 Ways to Equalize Bargaining Power

Often one spouse is a better negotiator than the other - this is normal. It is also true that there can be power imbalances in other processes - for example where one lawyer is a better negotiator or courtroom lawyer than the other. So we are not talking about perfect equality in any case - just a reasonable and safe process.

Why Mediation Works - 12 Reasons

Mediation had grown steadily since its early days in Ontario because it works. It works for a number of reasons, among them the following:

The choice of mediation is a signal to the other spouse that a person wants to work co-operatively, collaboratively - they are looking for a win-win outcome, not a win-lose outcome. 

Distance/Online Mediation

Normally and ideally, family mediations involve face to face meetings. There are, however, some times when this is not possible or desireable and "distance mediation" can provide a much needed service.

Elder Mediation

The number and percentage of seniors in our population are increasing and the issues around aging are increasing right along with it. The need for skilled help to deal with these issues is also increasing and that makes the growth of elder mediation in Canada vital.

Role of Lawyers in Family Mediation

When clients choose mediation, they have made a choice to be directly involved in the meetings to resolve their issues. In the majority of cases, the meetings consist of the spouses and the mediator only. Occasionally, and on an as needed basis, lawyers may be present.

They lawyers for mediation clients are advisors and consultants - they are not advocates or representatives as they might be in either litigation, arbitration or lawyer-lawyer negotiation.

How to Separate and Not Break the Bank - And More Importantly, Minimize the Impact on Your Family

A few months ago, I got a call from a friend of mine who was concerned about his son's family - his son's wife had just announced that she wanted a divorce and was leaving with the two young children.

Short of recommending good marriage counselling which was too late in this case, the best advice I could give him was to encourage his son and daughter-in-law to choose a good process for resolving their separation issues. This is crucial for preserving as much as possible of the family assets and the family relationships.

John G. Goodwin

John G. Goodwin, Family Mediator/Collaborative Family Lawyer/Family Lawyer
200 Elgin Street
Suite 802
Ottawa, Ontario K2P 1L5

Phone: 613-236-0662
Fax: 613-236-8906

Parking AND transportation

  • Close to public transportation
  • On-street parking nearby
  • Parking available under City Hall