Family mediation is an interest-based process that gives parties an opportunity to meet together with a neutral mediator. Mediators encourage the parties to communicate, negotiate and cooperate to resolve disputes outside of court.
Issues that may be discussed at mediation include the following:
Mediation agreements are not legally binding. However, most parties will use the terms of their mediation agreement to create a consent court order, or will take the agreement to their lawyers to include in a legal, binding contract.
There is no cost to qualifying families. To qualify, there must be at least one dependent child, under the age of 18 years and one or both parties must have an income of less than $40,000 per year.
There does not have to be a court action started to make use of the Family Mediation Services. However, the services are also available to families with court actions in either Provincial Court or the Court of Queen’s Bench. The parties may come to mediation on their own, or they may agree to come with their lawyers.
Parties who want to attend mediation are pre-screened to make sure that mediation will be appropriate for them. Both parties must agree to attend mediation.
Family Mediation Services are available in and around the following centres:
In some cases, parents and/or others involved with the care of a child may have a dispute with Child and Family Services. These disputes can often be resolved through mediation.
When a matter has gone to court, mediation can be used to help families and caseworkers develop a plan as to how decisions will be made, which may result in less time in care for children.
Mediation can be used in other situations where Child and Family Services are involved, whether or not the matter has been to court. Matters could include parents, parent/teens, foster parents, caseworkers or other interested parties.
Mediation gives the parties an opportunity to talk about important issues in a safe, confidential environment. The process also helps to improve communication between children, families and caseworkers.
When mediation produces an agreement or plan, a copy is provided to each party. In court contested matters, the agreement/plan is placed on the child’s file, and may be shared with the parties’ lawyers or entered into court documents if the parties agree. Otherwise the agreement/plan belongs to the parties and will only be shared with others, including the caseworker, if the parties agree.
In contested applications made under the Child, Youth and Family Enhancement Act, a referral is automatically made through the courts to the Child Protection and Intervention Mediation Program. In other matters, the caseworker, the parties or their lawyer may contact Family Justice Services directly.
The Child Protection and Intervention Mediation Program is available in the following centres:
Referrals and information may also be obtained through these Alberta Child and Family Services offices.
The Caseflow Conference is a program in the Provincial Court of Alberta. It is an alternative to a docket appearance in Court before a judge. The service helps the parties reach agreements and/or makes sure parties are ready to go to court.
The Caseflow Conference gives the parties a chance to discuss their issues about the court application(s) in a private, less formal atmosphere than a courtroom.
A Caseflow coordinator will give information about resources available to help parents resolve their disputes. Parties may be referred to mediation or other Family Justice Services programs. If the parties are able to reach an agreement, the Caseflow coordinator may prepare a consent order for them, allowing them to finalize their matter without going before a judge. Examples of order that may be prepared are:
• Parenting Order
• Contact Order
• Guardianship Order
• Grandparent Contact Order
• Child Support
There is no cost to the program. Caseflow is mandatory for all self represented litigants in Edmonton and Calgary who are applying for parenting, guardianship or contact. Parties with a lawyer or who are applying for child support may schedule an appointment with a Caseflow Coordinator upon request at the time they are filing their application.
Caseflow is available in the following centresCaseflow Conference Brochure
The Dispute Resolution Officer (DRO) program is offered in Calgary, and the Child Support Resolution Officer (CSRO) program is offered in Edmonton. Both programs allow parties who want to apply for or change their child support to meet together with a senior family lawyer.
The lawyer will discuss the matter with the parties, assess the state of their financial disclosure, describe the requirements of the Child Support Guidelines and help parties resolve their dispute using interest-based mediation skills.
If the parties are able to reach an agreement, in some cases, Family Justice Services staff are be able to prepare a consent order for the parties, so that the parties can finalize the matter without going to court.
If the parties are not able to resolve their issues, the lawyer will give them instructions about their next steps and may discuss with them what will happen in court.
In Calgary, the DRO program in mandatory for all applications in the Court of Queen's Bench either for child support or to vary child support, except for Provisional and ISO Applications (where the other party lives outside Alberta). The court may also grant exemptions from the program in some cases.
The program is also available for those making child support applications in the Provincial Court, and on a consent basis, for those who have not yet filed an application, but simply want to meet to discuss child support. Parties may also be referred to the program by a Justice.
In Edmonton, the CSRO program is mandatory for self represented parties who want to apply for or vary child support in the Court of Queen's Bench. More information about the CSRO program is here.
There is no charge for either program.
The DRO / CSRO programs are available in the following centres