Judge Advocates for Family Law Mediation Instead of Litigation

Should Arizona offer mandatory Family Law Mediation

If you are not convinced that mediation is better than litigation for your family law dispute, take it from a judge.  Justice Harvey Brownstone, a Canadian family court judge, wrote a book entitled:  Tug of War: A Judge’s Verdict On Separation, Custody Battles And The Bitter Realities Of Family Court.  In it, he heavily advocates for mediation.  He notes that, no matter how good their representation, people who go to court for family law disputes are normally unsatisfied.

Justice Brownstone identifies “maturity” as being the defining factor between those people willing to mediate and those insisting to go to court:

In the context of a relationship breakdown, being mature means loving your children more than you dislike your ex-partner. Being mature means caring enough about your children that you will force yourself to deal in a civilized way with someone you may hate. Being mature means thinking twice and measuring you words carefully before you shoot your mouth off when you’re upset with your ex-partner, especially in front of the children. It means always insulating your children from parental conflict so they know your breakup has nothing to do with them. It means doing what is necessary to make the transition in your children’s lives as easy for them as possible.

Being mature means putting your children’s needs ahead of your own. It means truly understanding and accepting that your children are entitled to love and be loved by both of their parents. It means giving your children emotional permission to express and receive that love, even though you and the other parent dislike each other. Being mature means being willing and able to reach compromises so that your children can have peace rather than be caught in a tug of war and conflict of loyalties. Being mature means recognizing that you can be an ex-partner but you are never going to be an ex-parent. True maturity requires parents to appreciate that children need both parents in their lives, working co-operatively to make the best possible decisions for their upbringing.

In my experience, mature people fully understand that even though they no longer love each other, they are the most qualified people to make important decisions for their children. After all, parents know their children best. Children deserve to have parents working together as a team in all matters affecting their welfare. Mature people do not give up their parental decision-making responsibilities to a total stranger, even if that stranger wears a robe and is called “Your Honour.”

Justice Brownstone, who recently spoke on the issue, points out:  “For the vast majority of couples, going to court creates a war when you need to make peace with each other for the sake of the children.” Sudbury Star, September 28, 2010. “I’m here to spread that message and to try to let the public know that we judges do our best to make the best possible decisions, but we don’t know these people that appear in front of us,” he said. “We certainly don’t know their children and in most cases, we will never meet their children.  We believe that parents are the best equipped to make decisions for their children.  “If they can deal with their own personal, emotional issues surrounding the breakup — which is what mediation tries to help people to do — they will be better equipped to deal with each other maybe over the next 20 years.”  Id.

Alona M. Gottfried is a family law mediator and attorney in Arizona.  If you have questions about mediation, she can be reached at: 480-998-1500 or alona@sglawaz.com.  This is a general interest article only and is not intended to be legal advice.  See a legal professional before making legal decisions.

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