August 2, 2023


Transforming Divorce through Mediation

divorce with question marks

Barbara Landau, a psychologist turned lawyer, has received the Order of Canada for her groundbreaking work in making divorce less painful through mediation. Throughout her long career, Dr. Landau has dedicated herself to making the divorce process easier for couples and families.

What mediation means or how to find a cooperative approach

In the late 1970s, Dr. Landau discovered mediation, a method used in California, and became determined to learn more. She attended law school and, in 1982, worked with a group of lawyers to establish the Ontario Association for Family Mediation. At the time, mediation was seen as an alternative and less legitimate option compared to going to court. However, Dr. Landau and her colleagues worked hard to change this perception.

Working in the Family Court system in the 1970s exposed Dr. Landau to the confrontational nature of divorce proceedings. She saw parents using hurtful and adversarial tactics, which harmed both parents and children. Understanding the long-lasting effects of divorce on families, Dr. Landau realized the need for a more compassionate and cooperative approach.

Did people get back together after mediation?

Divorce is tough, and the idea of getting along may seem impossible for many parents. However, Dr. Landau believes that mediation increases the chances of couples parting as respectful co-parents. Mediation is not suitable for everyone, especially in cases involving domestic violence or safety concerns, which may require a court-based process. However, for those who feel safe but are dealing with hurt feelings, rejection, humiliation, and anxiety about the future, mediation can provide a chance to reflect and gain a new perspective.

To change the way people navigate divorce, Dr. Landau introduced Problem-Solving Conferences. She invited both parents into her office at the Family Court Clinic, encouraging them to identify their disagreements, explore solutions, and summarize their own agreements. Despite criticism from lawyers who believed her approach conflicted with their clients’ interests, Dr. Landau remained committed to her vision.
Dr. Landau emphasizes the importance of reflecting on the journey that led to the separation, understanding individual goals for the future, and considering the well-being of the children involved. Through her approach, she has seen couples leave her office with a better understanding of each other and a willingness to reconcile. Some couples have chosen to repair their relationships, driven by their commitment to their children.

Impacts of Mediation

Mediation has a profound impact on children’s lives. Dr. Landau shares a heartwarming story of a former mediation client who became a mediator herself. Her parents’ mediation transformed their relationship, and they ended up living in the same housing development instead of fighting over property. Inspired by her parents’ experience, their daughter pursued a career in mediation. This story shows the power of mediation in changing lives and the enduring nature of family relationships.
Dr. Landau also collaborated with Chris Bentley, the former Attorney General of Ontario, which led to mediation services being available in every court. Individuals were required to attend an information session to explore options before going through an adversarial battle. This initiative brought about positive change, but Dr. Landau believes there is still more to be done outside of the court system.

How to find affordable mediation services in Ontario

With this in mind, Dr. Landau recently founded Separation Pathways, a nonprofit organization that provides cooperative and affordable outcomes for couples going through divorce. The organization brings together professionals from various fields who have agreed to work at reduced rates to assist couples who prefer a cooperative approach. Separation Pathways board members contributed to a free family law portal to inform individuals about legal requirements and provide guidance throughout the process.
Barbara Landau’s work has had a profound impact on the lives and relationships of many people. By introducing mediation and advocating for a more compassionate and cooperative approach to divorce, she has transformed the way families navigate this challenging transition. Her dedication to promoting understanding, reflection, and reconciliation has not only helped parents and children during the divorce process, but has also inspired future mediators.

Barbara Landau (LLB 1980) named to the Order of Canada

Receiving the Order of Canada recognizes Dr. Landau’s significant contributions to family mediation. Her tireless efforts have reshaped how divorce is approached in Canada’s family court system. Through her nonprofit organization, Separation Pathways, she and her team of highly trained professionals continue to provide support and guidance to couples seeking a cooperative and affordable resolution.

Barbara Landau’s work reminds us that divorce doesn’t have to be a battle; it can be an opportunity for growth, understanding, and a healthier future for everyone involved. By prioritizing the well-being of children and fostering cooperation between parents, she has paved the way for a more compassionate and effective approach to divorce mediation in Canada.

If you’re going through a separation or divorce, remember that you’re not alone. Take the first step with Separation Pathways and start your affordable and cooperative process with a free consultation, with no obligation.

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