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What to Expect from Family Law Mediation

Posted on May 17, 2019

Mediation in relation to family law is a process by which families that have recently broken down can discuss the legal arrangements for their separation, in the presence of a neutral third-party.

This is entered into with the aim of coming to an agreement outside of a court and relies on the willingness and cooperation of both parties to reach consensus on things such as the care and support of children, or how their assets are to be split in the divorce.

Mediators themselves are professionals, trained to ask questions that keep communications open and constructive even when emotions are running high and they must remain impartial throughout. A mediator cannot offer legal advice, nor influence the agreement reached, but will hopefully guide the discussion towards mutual decisions. The mediator may be a lawyer, but not necessarily.

Family Law MediationWhat is the process for family mediation?

The process for family mediation is broadly the same with regards to the steps to be followed however the time it takes will vary, depending on how many points you wish to address and how quickly you want to reach a resolution.

The initial session may take longer than subsequent meetings, simply because there’s a lot to establish and the mediator will want to get a clear picture of what’s causing the dispute and prioritize discussions for the next meeting.

The process could broadly incorporate the following…

  • Planning – Prior to meeting you might be asked to do a little preparation by gathering useful paperwork in relation to your financial situation; tax returns, daycare receipts, proof of assets and so on. Notes on what points you’re in disagreement on and why, will also be useful.
  • Initial Meeting – This is usually a meeting with each of you (sometimes separately), to determine what your position is, take you through the process and set some standards for the forthcoming meetings together so that you get the most out of them.
  • Negotiations – Both of you will meet with the mediator to discuss the points raised and try to reach an agreement on each issue with which you’re both comfortable. This is the stage that can become drawn out unless you can keep focused on the best interests of children and refrain from verbal insults. It is difficult where emotions are involved but try and remember that the alternative is probably a prolonged and expensive series of meetings and courtroom appearances.
  • Formalizing Agreements – Assuming you’ve been able to come to an understanding, you should each get a copy of notes from the mediator which can be taken to your respective lawyers for review and this will form the basis of a draft agreement to be drafted.

It’s recommended that each party has access to their own lawyer, who they may refer to at any time throughout the process if they’re at all unsure as to what their rights and responsibilities are. Anything discussed during family mediation is confidential and is not legally binding until it becomes a consent order or signed agreement.

What does it cost?

There are many mediation services available to you. Government subsidized programs such as those offered in the Ontario family courts are subject to fees based on your income, however the advantage of using a private mediator is that you have more control on how quickly progress is made and importantly, many people find the atmosphere of private mediation much more informal and less intimidating than that of a court environment.

The cost of mediation can be considerably cheaper than paying two lawyers for the entire process as it should normally take less time to reach an agreement this way and the cost of the mediator is usually covered equally by each person.

Chat to our mediators

More and more often, family mediation is being used as an alternative to lengthy and expensive court orders for those families that feel as though they can work through their differences with a little help.

Mediation is most successful when each person approaches it with an open mind and a willingness to at least hear the other’s point of view but there are specific situations where it won’t be appropriate.

A member of our friendly collaborative law team can review your concerns during a free consultation and advise whether mediation might be a suitable approach for you and your family.

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