Change of Direction in Child Law?
About Honor Desmond-Tetlow
Ms. Desmond-Tetlow is a senior associate in the firm’s litigation group and advises on all areas of matrimonial and family law and in general civil litigation. She is also a trained mediator and collaborative law practitioner.
Honor Desmond-Tetlow’s full profile on mjm.bm.
A paragraph in the Throne Speech in November of 2013 heralded a proposed change to the Children Act, 1998.
The need to incorporate family mediation into the Act was recognized as a prerequisite for co-parenting orders rather than arising only as a result of a parent’s non-compliance with some existing order. This proposed move to formalize the requirement for mediation brings Bermuda into line with the current practice in many jurisdictions.
Many of the attendees at a recent Family Mediation Workshop held at the Family Court in February were enthusiastic supporters of that proposal. The presenter, Mr. Calum MacLeod, is a Master in the Superior Court of Justice in Ottawa, Canada. The attendees included family and matrimonial law practitioners as well as psychologists, child welfare officers and practising mediators.
Concerns which are constantly raised by mediation sceptics were discussed. These include addressing “power imbalances”, which can arise not only if one party tends to dominate the other, but also if one can afford assertive representation and the other cannot. The answer might be, firstly, to “kill all the lawyers” or at least those who will not give mediation a chance? The reality is that clients usually have a greater insight into their own lives than any lawyer or judge before whom they might appear.
Hands on mediation role play during the workshop served to emphasize the very different skills used in a successful mediation from those required of a traditional, adversarial litigation attorney.
In general, the change of emphasis and the promised amendment to the Children Act was welcomed and it is to be hoped that the Family Law Reform Committee on matrimonial law will seriously consider the widespread use of mediation and alternative dispute resolution approaches in all areas of family law.