In many areas of law such as personal injury cases, people are reluctant to apologize for damage they have caused because they do not want to admit guilt and an admission of guilt could be used later in a legal proceeding against them. In B.C. there is now legislation which allows people to apologize without having to worry about the apology being used as an admission of guilt in court.


Family Law is different because we have a “no fault” system. A spouse’s conduct towards the other spouse is not relevant or admissible in a court proceeding except under very limited circumstances. Because of this, spouses can apologize to each other without fear of repercussion.


I have done hundreds of mediations over the past 15 years and I have noticed that there is one thing that above all others will allow people to reach a settlement and that is a heartfelt apology.


If one or both of the spouses are able to describe what they believe caused the breakdown of the relationship and are then able to take responsibility for their part in it and apologize this can allow the other spouse to move forward.


With an apology often spouses remain so entrenched in their anger that they find it difficult to negotiate a settlement. Settlements require compromise and both spouses need to be willing to compromise. Anger and resentment will prevent compromise. Often if spouses apologize they can each begin to forgive and only then will they be willing to compromise and work to find a resolution of their issues.

Deborah A. Todd
Deborah A. Todd