In a recent release, the provincial government announced they would be changing the rules around family law to introduce a requirement for early family dispute resolution outside of the courts.

It would require families to go to a mediator and take part in mediation, before being allowed to move forward into pretrial and eventually court proceedings.

The practice has been seen in some communities but is now moving province-wide.

“Mandatory dispute resolution empowers families to address issues before they go to court,” Justice Minister and Attorney General Bronwyn Eyre said. “This program, implemented as a pilot in Prince Albert in 2020 and Regina in 2021, has been effective in reducing the financial and emotional impacts of separation and divorce on families and their children.”

But Family Mediator and Family Law Paralegal Michelle Linklater says that the new rules will be great for families and gives an example of a recent case of mediation.

"I was able to assist parties last Tuesday that both had lawyers that were unable to come to a resolution, and they had already initiated court proceedings. They were coming to mediation because it was a jurisdictional requirement in Regina that they attend an alternate family resolution process. So in essence, they were coming to me to get that certificate of participation so they could continue on with that process."

"It was told to me that they did not believe they would be able to resolve this matter in chambers or in pre-trial and that they would be looking for this matter to be settled in a trial. As we know," said Linklater, "the courts are significantly backed up and I had called the court on Tuesday just to see about the possibility of pre-trial and trial dates."

Linklater learned that the pre-trial wouldn't be able to take place until the late fall, in October or November, and that the actual trial would not begin until the spring of 2023.

When the two parties came to the resolution, Linklater says that thanks to them keeping an open mind the resolution took much less time.

"The two parties that came to me, with their lawyers, wanting the requiremnt of the certificate of participation. When we were in our joint mediation settlement, I was able to resolve all the parties' conflicts within two hours. We were able to come to an agreement."

She cites that willingness to be open to the process as the reason it went so well.

"I don't hold myself out to be the person that can solve all matters," said Linklater, "I'm only as good as my parties are willing to participate and engage in the process. I had parties that were willing to come to the table and to try the process."

The new change is set to go into effect on July 1 - low-income options are also offered by the government in some situations.