What is family mediation?

Spouses must often deal with a number of issues in the wake of their separation, including their parenting arrangements, the division of their property and debts and monthly support.  Navigating through these basic and important  issues can be challenging in the emotionally charged atmosphere surrounding a break up.

A family law mediator sits down with the parties and facilitate a resolution of these issues through a process of respectful negotiation.  Negotiated settlements allow you to:

  • Maintain control over the family law process and its outcome;
  • Establish a foundation for co-parenting of your children;
  • Focus on the present and the future; not the past;
  • Control costs;
How does a family mediator do this?

Parenting disputes are resolved through negotiation.  The family mediator focuses the parents on the best interests of the child or children and works with them to develop a plan that meets the children’s day to day needs and maximizes the quality time the children spend with each parent.  The children’s best interests (as opposed to the parents’ desires) are, at all times, given priority.

The spouses agree, at the outset of the process to provide one another with full and accurate financial information and the mediator assists in gathering and summarizing that disclosure for you.  The spouses then meet with the mediator in a joint session and negotiations take place to resolve the outstanding issues fairly.  The mediator then prepares either a summary for your lawyers to turn into an enforceable agreement or prepares a separation agreement which, once reviewed by your lawyers, is signed and distributed.

Types of mediation

You will both remain in complete control of the negotiations and fashion their own solutions. The family mediator will ask questions to help the parties focus on the issues, may play a role in educating the parties regarding the disputed issues and will help look for common ground and “win- win” scenarios.  The spouses both remain in complete control of the outcome.

When  the spouses appear to be at an impasse and require guidance and direction to resolve their issues.  Here the family mediator takes a more active role in evaluating the strengths and weaknesses of a spouse’s position.  The mediator may make specific recommendations as to what bargain may be “fair” and “balanced”.  The parties can then choose to accept those recommendations, modify them, or reject them and leave the mediation process.

Do I need a lawyer if I choose to Mediate?

Technically no… But signing a separation agreement has far ranging and important implications to your future.  The impact of your agreement in the event of significant changes to parenting, health and employability need to be understood and explained to you before an agreement is signed.  This is the role of your lawyer.  A family mediator is impartial and will not offer you legal advice.

What if my spouse is unreasonable?

Most people come into the process feeling their spouse is unreasonable.  Often, the issue is a lack of constructive communication. At ASR, our family law mediators will go behind a seemingly unreasonable position to get to the root of the issue and try to address it.

If a spouse is truly taking an untenable position without justification, the mediator may bring in third parties, like lawyers, medical professionals, child psychologists or financial planners to educate the parties about the issue in dispute and assist in seeking compromise.

The most intractable positions can be softened.  Mediation is about compromise.

Is Mediation for me?

Mediation is for everybody.  Everyone wants to save cost, arrive at a negotiated solution and avoid Court.

Having said this, there are two situations in which modifications need to be made to the mediation process; situations in which a spouse has been physically or emotionally abused, and situations where a spouse does not feel they are able to “stand up for themselves” in negotiating a fair deal.  Mediators will screen spouses for these situations in an initial “one on one” interview without your spouse present.  If the family mediator is concerned, we will recommend a “lawyer assisted mediation”.  Here one or both parties will attend with a lawyer to assist in the negotiating process and “level the playing field”.  While this option is more costly, it is preferable to proceeding to Court.

When should mediation start?

The sooner the better.  Most separating couples need to deal with a variety of short term issues immediately; a parenting schedule, who pays bills while we negotiate, separating financial affairs, changing (or not changing) wills and beneficiary designations, who stays in the house and how do we balance the cost of two homes if we physically separate.  Family mediation will address these emergency issues immediately and then, when the situation is stable, will conclude the bigger and long term issues.

How Much does mediation cost and who pays?

Mediations are billed on an hourly basis at $200 per hour per person plus applicable HST.

At ASR, the family mediators will deal with financial issues like child support, spousal support and property division.  A two hour session will typically cost about $400 per person plus tax.

Each spouse pays the mediator directly for their share of the family mediator’s cost.

How many sessions will this take?

We would like to minimize your cost by resolving your issues in as few sessions as possible.  The more issues you have agreed on, the fewer sessions will be required with the mediator.  Some cases are complicated and require several sessions to resolve.

My spouse is a procrastinator

A mediator will set out timetables and schedules to complete disclosure and move the matter forward.  If someone does not meet the deadlines or is delaying the process, the other spouse is free to terminate the mediation and seek the advice of legal counsel to force the matter forward.

Are the things I say in mediation confidential?

Yes and no.  Our mediations are “closed” mediations, which means that the offers you make and the statements you make in the process cannot be used against you in Court, if you are unable to settle the matter.

Having said this, the things you tell a mediator will be shared with your spouse unless you specifically tell your mediator to keep the issue confidential.  Mediation is, however, founded on the principles of openness and full disclosure and we encourage this.  If we know that someone is, for example, “hiding” assets or income and we cannot convince them to disclose that information, we may terminate the mediation.

What if our separation is extremely adversarial?

Qualified mediators are equipped to deal with couples who may struggle to deal with their emotions but still wish to work things out amicably and avoid Court.

Contact us with any questions