Triaging and mediating to meet the needs of families under The Family Dispute Resolution (Pilot Project) Act of Manitoba

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Goldberg, Stefanie
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The Family Dispute Resolution (Pilot Project) Act of Manitoba (“FDRA”) creates a three-year pilot project which will mandate the resolution of certain family disputes outside of our courts, through alternative mechanisms like mediation. Under the FDRA, “resolution officers” will be responsible for triaging families into these alternative resources. Currently, the FDRA provides insufficient guidance to resolution officers to enable them to conduct this triaging role effectively. This is problematic as triaging is the first major step in the FDRA process and will set the course for the parties’ entire dispute resolution experience under the new scheme. Given the importance of this step, and the likelihood that mediation will be one of the primary processes used to resolve disputes under the FDRA, I have attempted to create enhanced guidelines to help resolution officers match parties to the most optimal type of mediation to fit their particular needs. These guidelines were informed by both the mediation literature and the results of qualitative interviews which I conducted with some of Manitoba’s most knowledgeable family mediators. Considering factors like the nature of the family law issue, the complexity of the case, the level of conflict, and the degree of power imbalance between parties, I attempted to evaluate whether facilitative, evaluative or transformative mediation methods will be the most effective. I also explored the training and qualifications which might best prepare resolution officers to fulfill their triaging functions. Ultimately, I outline several factors which can impact the resolution of family disputes through mediation, and which must therefore inform the triaging decisions of resolution officers. With respect to qualifications and training, I argue that resolution officers must either be designated as Chartered Mediators by the ADR Institute of Canada, Certified Family Relations Mediators or Certified Comprehensive Family Mediators by Family Mediation Canada, or Designated Mediators of the Court of Queen’s Bench. Finally, I argue that to facilitate the most successful implementation of the FDRA, the government must not only take the insights from my research into consideration but must also commit to consultations with our province’s family mediators and other ADR professionals.
Mediation, Family law, Manitoba