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Notice to Mediate: When to serve one in British Columbia

If you’ve just opened your divorce case in British Columbia, see if you and your ex can talk through your disagreements — either privately or with a professional like a counselor or lawyer. Several approaches known as alternative dispute resolution (ADR) methods can keep you out of court. In BC, if your ex is reluctant to go, one divorce mediation option you should be aware of is the Notice to Mediate.

Learn About Divorce Mediation

A mediator is a trained professional who helps you reach an agreement together. They’re often lawyers, which allows them to write up your official agreement in BC. Even if your mediator isn’t a lawyer, they’ll still write up minutes of settlement (aka a memorandum of understanding), which you or your lawyers can use to prepare an official agreement.

Mediation is popular because it’s highly effective. BC lawyers have reported that most people who go to mediation end up with some settlement, reducing their trial preparation or even eliminating the trial altogether. This is a way to create a divorce settlement agreement that lasts.

Notice to Mediate: You Can Make Your Ex Go

You can agree to go to divorce mediation at any time — with or without a court case. Many mediators work in private practice, and you can hire them.

Additionally, BC provides a process called a Notice to Mediate through which you can compel your ex to go to mediation (as long as your case doesn’t involve abuse, for which the mediator will screen you).

A Notice to Mediate can’t be the first thing you do in your court case.

If one of you opened your court case and the other responded to it at least 90 days ago, you’re eligible to file a Notice to Mediate.

But don’t wait too long. You won’t be eligible anymore if you’re too close to your trial date. You can serve your ex with a Notice to Mediate if your trial is at least 90 days in the future.

Mediation Takes Time

When you’re headed to mediation, you need to:

  • Pick a mediator
  • Decide how you’ll split the costs
  • Schedule a session
  • Prepare your argument
  • Find and print supporting documents
  • Be psychologically ready to negotiate with your ex
  • Participate in good faith to reach an agreement

All of this takes time. That’s why the law won’t let you begin to force the other parent into mediation if your trial is less than three months away.

To ensure the mediation happens, the law walks you through the next steps, which have their own deadlines:

  • Once you serve your ex with a Notice to Mediate, you have 14 days to agree on a mediator. Find one on the roster of Alternative Dispute Resolution Institute of British Columbia (ADRBC). If you and your ex can’t agree on a mediator, you’ll have to ask ADRBC to pick the mediator for you.
  • Once the mediator is appointed, the session must happen within 60 days.
  • Normally, the session should occur at least 14 days before your scheduled trial — and one of the best possible outcomes of mediation would be canceling your trial. However, the law does allow you, your ex and the mediator to agree to meet closer to your trial date.

The Outcome Is Up to Both of You

You can make your ex go to mediation, but you can’t make them settle. Neither can they force you to settle. Some issues are important enough – like your child’s well-being — that you may not want to give in to your ex’s wishes and may instead want to let a judge decide.

But with a competent mediator and two adults in good-faith negotiation, you can probably reach an excellent agreement for your futures.

Learn More About Serving a Notice to Mediate

Find the details for this process in BC’s “Notice to Mediate (Family) Regulation.” A separate regulation labeled “General,” not “Family,” covers other kinds of civil cases.

author

Ben Coltrin

Ben Coltrin was 21 years old when he quit his job to create the Custody X Change software, which helps parents track their custody schedules, create parenting plans, keep tabs on their child's expenses, and more. Nearly 20 years later, he loves sharing his child custody knowledge and improving the… MORE

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