Mediation offers people a say in resolving their issues
Tuesday, July 16, 2013
Legal Aid Ontario (LAO) family mediator, Summer Nudel, understands how the added stress of a separation or a custody dispute for clients already struggling to meet basic needs like food, rent and shelter, can leave them feeling overwhelmed and powerless.
“It can be scary when people don’t know what’s going to happen to their families,” Summer says. “Mediation helps to eliminate those fears by giving people the opportunity and power to decide for themselves.”
She explains that mediation is a process where people are guided to find their own resolution.
“It’s not meant to be win or lose, but rather, to have both people feeling like they made their own choices,” she says.
Summer graduated in 2004 with a Masters degree in social work. She then chose to become a mediator because of her interest in managing conflict. Summer sought accreditation from the Ontario Association for Family Mediation so she could work with families who are divorcing or separating.
She will usually ask clients to tell her what works best with their lifestyle, workplace commitments and living arrangements. She reminds them that no parent should be excluded from the children’s lives — there must be a way that kids can enjoy both parents.
“The end result doesn’t have to be ‘fair.’ It has to be reasonable, doable and as easy as possible,” she says.
Anna and Joe (names have been changed), she recalls, went through a tumultuous break-up and were trying to hammer out a parenting plan that they could both live with. Summer’s guidance helped them agree to stay on topic with their son Oliver and to communicate with each other to avoid misunderstandings.
“It’s not meant to be win or lose, but rather, to have both people feeling like they made their own choices.”
However, parenting plans aren’t set in stone. As things change in her clients’ lives, Summer can help them adjust their custody arrangements.
Anna and Joe revisited her a year later after someone from Ontario Works instructed Anna to file a court application to enforce the mediation agreement. Joe was upset when he received this court application because he thought everything was fine and didn’t understand that the application was an Ontario Works requirement rather than an additional request from Anna.
With trust dissolved and their child upset over the renewed fighting between his parents, Anna and Joe turned to Summer for her mediation services again. After meeting with them, she was able to make changes to their parenting plan and prepare a “Consent to Order” for her clients to take to court.
“They left calm, happy and relieved that they weren’t in conflict with each other. They also felt like they were on the same team again when it came to their son,” Summer recalls. “Because they were able to solve the problem in mediation, they needed fewer court appearances, and they didn’t need to appear before a judge.”
Mediation, she reflects, is not only about solving the immediate issues – it also gives people the tools to manage conflict in the future.
If you’re interested in family mediation and live in the central Toronto region, please contact Summer at 416-348-0001 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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