Education key to success of divorce mediation options
Efforts have been made by the courts and the Government to promote mediation for a more amicable divorce settlement option. The collaborative family practice (CFP) is one such option, but it has yet to take off.
As a collaborative family practitioner, I believe the CFP’s success will depend on a number of factors.
Firstly, an adequate critical mass of interested and competent lawyers must emerge in this area of practice. Singapore has made a good start, having trained two batches of lawyers in the CFP within two years through the Singapore Mediation Centre (SMC). Based on the cases processed through the SMC, feedback has been positive.
Secondly, collaborative practitioners have to put out a consistent message collectively about the values and benefits of the CFP.
The benefits are that parties heading for a divorce manage their split with less pain and less cost. They obtain better outcomes on ancillary matters such as property distribution, maintenance, and custody of and access to children.
In a CFP case, issues of property distribution, maintenance, custody and access are sorted out in a transparent manner, with respect and civility by both spouses and with the help of two trained practitioners before the divorce suit is filed. In an adversarial divorce setting, these issues are handled after the divorce papers are filed. By then, there is too much antagonism between the divorcing parties.
Thirdly, the public, individual and referral sources have to become familiar with the collaborative model and the benefits. The promotion of knowledge and awareness of the CFP model is important.
So, the task for practitioners is to identify and reach out to policymakers, clients and lawyers, and referral sources such as the SMC and the courts. Also, training, accreditation and life-long learning are crucial in upgrading the skills of a practitioner.