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ABOUT FAMILY LAW MEDIATION

Mediation is a process in which the parties to a dispute work together to find a solution, with the assistance of a facilitator (the mediator).  It is negotiation, with some structure and assistance.  It one of the "Alternative Dispute Resolution" (or "ADR") tools.   (Alternatives to litigation in court).  It can, in particular, be a very effective tool to resolve family law disputes. 

The parties are the decision-maker, not the mediator.  People make the decision about their own lives (and about the lives of their own children).  Through mediation, they may avoid a court proceeding or, at least, minimize the involvement of the court.  Conflict can be reduced.  Parties may be more committed to agreements they make (rather than those imposed).  It can be quicker and less expensive that court.  They may learn skills that help them resolve future disputes.

A mediator may be able manage the mediation in a way that makes the process fair and civil, notwithstanding high conflict or power imbalances.  However, mediation is not appropriate for some cases.

The parties' lawyers may participate in the mediation process, but are not required for the mediation.  However, independent legal advice should be obtained, by each party, prior to; sometimes during; and after the mediation.

The mediator endeavors to:​

  • ensure a safe and productive environment for discussions

  • focus the parties on finding answers

  • help the parties to come up with possible solutions (and may make suggestions when necessary)

  • provide, when necessary, legal information (but not legal advice)

  • remain neutral

  • not impose his/her own solutions

The parties are expected to endeavor to:

  • be respectful of those involved in the discussion

  • listen to each other

  • focus on the future, not the past

  • try to put aside the emotions that get in the way of moving on and making the situation better

  • commit to finding a solution

  • be open minded as to possible solutions

  • provide financial or other disclosure (including documents) necessary for the decisions

  • obtain legal advice from their own (independent) lawyer

It is a voluntary process.  (A family court judge can order the parties to go through the intake process, but cannot compel them to otherwise participate in a mediation.)  Either party (for any reason), or the mediator, may terminate the mediation at any time.   The mediator should terminate if, in his/her opinion, the mediation is no longer appropriate.

There are no guarantees the mediation will result in a settlement.  A mediation that improves communication and reduces the issues is a success. 

 

If mediation results in agreeable terms, the mediator provides a Mediation Summary Report  (NOT binding agreement) that sets out the terms.  The parties should, with the assistance of lawyers, turn this into a binding Separation Agreement or Minutes of Settlement , so that the terms become binding.

Family law mediation can help with parenting arrangements; child support; spousal support; and property claims (and various incidental issues).

Family law mediators generally go through training, before they are accredited by one of the mediation associations (for example the Ontario Association of Family Mediators) to be family law mediators.  They may have a background that can be helpful, such as having been a family lawyer, a social worker, a financial expert.

Mediation is different that arbitration or "med-arb", in which the third party may impose a decision.

The Ontario government subsidizes court-based mediation (a service provided by Peel Family Mediation Services in Peel, Dufferin, and York).  You can also privately hire a mediator to assist you.  I offer private family law mediation.

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