For the first time in more than 20 years, Alberta is increasing the income threshold for family mediation services to help more Albertans resolve family disputes.
The family mediation program allows low-income parents who are separating or divorcing to resolve parenting issues and create parenting plans outside of the courts. To keep up with the rising cost of living and make the program more accessible to Albertans, the eligibility income threshold for the program increased to $60,000 from $40,000 on March 1.
The family mediation program is one of many family resolution services Albertans can access. Budget 2023 is providing $5 million to enhance family resolution services, such as pre-court assessment, mediation, family court counsellors and parenting intervention programs. These services make a difference to many facing the emotional stress of family legal matters and help mitigate justice system backlogs by allowing families to resolve disputes outside the courts.
“Adjusting the eligibility income threshold for the family mediation program for the first time in 20 years will reduce costs to taxpayers, reduce court backlogs, and most importantly, allow more Albertans to access a program that reduces the stress of resolving family disputes.”Tyler Shandro, Minister of Justice and Attorney General
“In times of family breakdown, going to court can be an incredibly difficult and stressful experience for everyone involved. Providing more support to help Alberta families resolve disputes fairly and equitably outside court will have significant positive impacts on the outcomes of these cases. Additional funding for family mediation services means that more Albertans will be able to amicably resolve their family issues with confidence and dignity.”John Panusa, KC, president and CEO, Legal Aid Alberta
“Accessible family justice is essential to the well-being of Alberta’s families, particularly for the children of families that are restructuring and facing new challenges. Reducing the financial and emotional cost of separation and divorce with mediation and other less adversarial options will ensure families can still thrive and preserve essential relationships. ADRIA fully supports dispute resolution options such as mediation that encourage families to resolve their differences outside of the courtroom, and to successfully manage their co-parenting responsibilities. The decision to raise the eligibility income threshold for Alberta’s family mediation program represents significant support for Alberta families and children, and for alternative dispute resolution as the preferred alternative to court.” Paul Conway, executive director, Alternative Dispute Resolution Institute of Alberta
“The Alberta Family Mediation Society is very pleased to hear that Alberta Justice is increasing the income threshold for their family mediation services. This increase will benefit many Alberta families experiencing family conflict. Family mediation can reduce the financial and emotional costs of litigating as well as shorten the time frame required to reach a resolution. It allows the participants to engage in a collaborative problem-solving process with an experienced family mediator who is neutral and can assist the parties in navigating their particular conflict.”Sharon J. Crooks K.C., board chair, Alberta Family Mediation Society
“Parents going through separation and divorce often don’t know how to start or where to turn for help. Family mediators help parents work together to reorganize their family in the best way possible, creating two homes from one where children can feel secure and supported in both. In mediation, parents focus on their children while making the many changes and decisions needed to set up their new co-parenting relationship. This increase in funding will open the door to many more parents looking to move through one of life’s most stressful events collaboratively and respectfully, minimizing the impacts on their families, their health and their financial resources.”Judith Lake, past president, Alberta Chapter, Association of Family and Conciliation Courts
“When turmoil is going on for the family, everyone is experiencing the breakdown of relationships within it. Family mediation creates a safe space to work through the issues in a way that creates a better outcome. Mediation focuses on the best interests of the children and safety plans can be put in place. Court backlogs draw out this process and children’s voices are never heard.”Barb Barclay, southern regional manager, Native Counselling Services of Alberta
Budget 2023 secures Alberta’s future by transforming the health-care system to meet people’s needs, supporting Albertans with the high cost of living, keeping our communities safe and driving the economy with more jobs, quality education and continued diversification.
- Parenting disputes resolved by mediation result in significant cost savings. The average cost to staff a courtroom for a parenting dispute is $2,731 compared to $641 for family mediation services, resulting in a savings of $1,730 per dispute.
- From 2015-2020, the average number of mediations completed per year was 1,073.
- Current wait times for mediation are one to three weeks, depending on the location.
- More than 85 per cent of mediation sessions lead to a resolution and more than 90 per cent of Albertans report being satisfied with the service.
- The family mediation program is available across the province.
- This change is supported by Provincial Court of Alberta and Court of King’s Bench judiciary.