Privacy in mediation is one of the main reasons why people choose to mediate, rather than litigate, their law cases.  When people seek the court’s help to make decisions about their separation and divorce, business or estate dispute, everything is potentially out in the open.

Most people prefer to keep their business private.  They may not want details of their relationship, or their financial status, revealed in court.  But potentially every record could become evidence in a court case.  This could be love letters, medical records, financial records, threatening texts, Facebook posts, and photographs.

The Risks of Open Court

Many doctors, dentists, celebrities, and other business people do not want their disputes out in the open.  They fear that allegations and conflicts may affect their current relationships, their image, or their professional “brand”.

Johnny Depp recently had a defamation trial in England, which revealed a lot of negative information about his marriage with Amber Heard.  This included not only allegations of domestic violence, but also drug and alcohol abuse.  This may affect his ability to get good acting roles in the future.

Public knowledge about business conflicts might also affect a business’s ability to attract and keep clients and investors.

Who Can Watch My Court Case?

In BC any member of the public can attend most court hearings.  All you have to do is walk into a courthouse, look at the list of cases to be heard, and sit in that assigned courtroom.  This includes family cases, as well as criminal, small claims, and other hearings.  The names for people involved in BC criminal and small claims cases are even available on the Courthouse Services website.

In CBC v. Canada (2011),  the Supreme Court said that the open court principle is crucial in a democratic society, and ensures that justice follows the rule of law.

Mediation is Private

During a family mediation, or contract mediation all of the communication is private.  Conversations had in mediation are not admissible in court, and your mediator can not be your lawyer.   The mediator has to be a neutral third party.

The parties can either attend the mediation with or without their lawyers.  There are no media, and no witnesses.  You can not audio or video record your mediation.

If the parties come to an agreement on part or all of their dispute, the Mediator writes up a binding agreement.  If part of the matter still needs to go to court, none of the mediation records are included in the court record.

Privacy in mediation allows for the parties to have honest and open communication, and to create the right environment for settlement.

Jayne Embree

Legal Assistant & Mediation Coordinator