The Mediation Process

Once you have made the decision to start family law mediation, what does the process actually look like?  The family law mediation process generally unfolds with an intake meeting with each of you individually, a number of mediation sessions and then the completion of your Separation Agreement.  However, it is important to remember that unlike court, the family law mediation process can be tailored to you and your unique situation.

The first step in the family law mediation process is for each of you to contact our office advising that you wish to proceed with mediation.  We will then schedule an intake meeting between the family law mediator and each of you individually.

Intake Meetings

The intake meetings usually take about an hour for each of you.  It is an opportunity for you to meet individually with the family law mediator prior to the first joint mediation session.   During the intake meeting, you can let the family law mediator know which issues are important to you and any relevant facts that may impact upon the mediation.  It also provides you with the opportunity to ask the family law mediator any questions that you may have.

After the intake meeting, the family law mediator will provide a list of financial information that will be required together so that you can begin to gather it.  A timeline will be made for this information to be provided and the first family law mediation session will be booked.

When to obtain a Family Law Lawyer

While all of our family law mediators are also very experienced family lawyers, our role as your family mediator is different than that of your lawyer.  As your mediator, we can give you general information about family law.  However, we cannot give you specific advice as to how the law applies to your individual situation.  This is the role of your family lawyer.

It is usually very helpful for you to meet with a family lawyer in advance of the mediation to learn of your rights and obligations.  However, this is not necessary.  You may choose to seek the advice of a family lawyer between the mediation sessions or may wait until the Separation Agreement has been drafted to obtain independent legal advice from a family lawyer.

You may also decide during the family law mediation process that you would like to have your family lawyer attend the mediation with you.  This is often referred to as “counsel assisted” mediation.  This can be a very efficient way of resolving your issues.  Often agreements are reached the same day as the mediation as each of you is able to have the benefit of advice from your lawyer as to potential outcomes during the mediation session itself.

Mediation Sessions

Most family law mediation sessions are scheduled for 3 hours.  However, this time can be increased or shortened depending upon your needs.  We will work together to create an agenda at the first family law mediation session and any urgent issues can be addressed at that time.

Most family law mediations are resolved after 2 or 3 meetings.  However, this is dependent upon your situation.  The time between each mediation session will depend upon whether additional financial information is required such as property appraisals, pension valuations or expert opinions regarding the value of other assets.  The experts who have provided the value of an asset may attend the family law mediation if the mediator and the parties determine that it would be helpful to do so.

Parenting Mediation

Our family law mediators are all lawyers with over 25 years of experience.  While we are able to mediate any situation, if there are significant parenting issues, we may suggest that you mediate these issues with a mental health professional who is a trained parenting mediator.  You would only proceed with a parenting mediator if you both agreed to do so.  This would be discussed with you at the intake meeting.

We have a roster of experienced family parenting mediators to assist us with parenting mediation.  The benefit to you of this cost effective approach is that a mental health professional has the training and background to mediate the children’s issues to ensure that their best interests are protected and the emotional bond between each of the parents and children is maintained.  If there are significant parenting issues, a parenting mediator will likely be able to resolve the parenting issues at less cost to you.

If we determine that it is best to mediate the parenting issues with a parenting mediator, the family law mediator would mediate the financial issues with you.

Separation Agreement

A  Final Separation Agreement that addresses all of the family law issues between you including parenting, child support, spousal support and the equalization of your family property will be the result of a successful family law mediation.

In order to ensure that this agreement is binding it is vital that each party has obtained independent legal advice from a family lawyer regarding the agreement.  If such legal advice is not obtained, it is more likely that the agreement could be challenged in court and potentially set aside.  We recognize that this will create some additional cost for you.  But, as family lawyers ourselves, we cannot stress enough the importance of this step.  We have all encountered instances in our many years of practice where both parties have been required to spend thousands of dollars in court to address issues that would have been easily resolved if each of the parties had taken their Separation Agreement to a family lawyer for their review and advice.

Contact us with any questions