With a growing backlog of cases in the courts, magistrates are struggling to cope with the increasing number of cases, particularly in family law. Mediation is presented as a solution.
But is it used wisely, or is it simply used to relieve the courts?
Judges and lawyers must inform parties of the possibility of amicable dispute resolution. A worthy initiative in itself. However, there are a number of situations in which the effectiveness of mediation is undermined.
Not all conflicts are suitable for mediation. Take, for example, cases involving physical or psychological violence, such as harassment. These cases are extremely difficult to prove.
Customers may be in the grip of manipulative, violent spouses, using threats and emotional blackmail. In this context, mediation risks not only prolonging the manipulator’s control but also giving an impression of injustice to the victim, who only wants one thing: the protection of the court.
Magistrates should not present it as a systematic alternative to unburden themselves, especially as some manipulators can be convincing in mediation, prolonging their hold on the vulnerable person.
The heart of the problem lies in the dysfunction of the judicial system itself, caused by a lack of means and a lack of political will to provide sufficient resources. Mediation should therefore not be seen as a “plan B” to remedy these shortcomings.
It is important to remember that mediation must remain a voluntary process, respecting the freedom of choice of the parties involved. As a mediator, it is essential to ensure that the parties are genuinely consenting, and not forced under threat.
Mediation is a valuable tool, but it must not be misused or used as an escape route from a troubled justice system.
For justice to be effective, we must focus above all on reforming the justice system, equipping it with the resources it needs to meet the needs of citizens.
Have you ever experienced such a situation?
Or do you know someone who has?
Leave your opinion in the comments.
Nathalie Van den Bossche
Lawyer specialized in family law