Family law continues to evolve in British Columbia with new regulations providing for accreditation for those who wish to provide services in alternative dispute resolution.
Among the ways people can work as family mediators, arbitrators, or parenting co-ordinators is through organizations such as the Law Society of British Columbia or Mediate BC. Kari Boyle, executive director of Mediate BC, says the regulations under the new Family Law Act that took effect Jan. 1, have significantly altered the field of family dispute resolution in the province as they give “the public a safe place to find mediators if they want.”
“The act is clearly sending a message that families should first opt to try some of the out-of-court solutions,” she says.
While Mediate BC’s family roster includes a variety of practitioners, including lawyers, social workers, and teachers, the law society outlined the accreditation requirements for lawyers last Friday. They include 14 hours of approved training in family violence; up to 10 years of related experience and 40 or more hours of mediation, arbitration, and/or parenting co-ordination training; and sufficient training in family law.
As of Jan. 1, lawyers providing alternative dispute resolution services in family law must complete their training and register it with the LSBC.
Mediate BC’s roster requires people to have certification by Family Mediation Canada (with non-lawyers needing at least 40 hours of training in family law and procedures). Alternatively, those not certified by Family Mediation Canada must, among other things, have at least 80 hours of core education in conflict resolution; 14 hours of family violence training; 21 hours of training on family dynamics; and a minimum of hours of mediation work over at least 10 family mediation sessions in the last five years.
“We believe it’s important to have experience as well,” says Boyle, whose organization’s family mediation roster has grown by nine people to 59 in recent months.
Boyle notes the new regulations follow years of discussion on and changes to family law as the government seeks to encourage alternatives to court. Already, she says, Mediation BC has noticed an increase in inquiries from the public as people become more aware of the changes.
“It makes so much more sense in family law,” she says. “It can save them time and money.”