How Can a Mediator Help Me?

The process of divorce and separation following the dissolution of a marriage or common law partnership can be one of life’s most challenging trials. While navigating the emotional fallout of a relationship’s end, you may also be negotiating the division of property and finances, sorting out living arrangements, and making plans for the future of your children. In some cases, it may be necessary to go to court, where a judge will rule on the terms of your separation. Or, if you and your former spouse are willing to collaborate on resolving your points of disagreement, you may decide to work with a family mediator.

At Cohen Highley LLP, our lawyers may be able to help you in a range of matters regarding family law, including family mediation. Contact us today to schedule a consultation and discuss how we might be of assistance to you. 

What Is a Family Mediator?

A family mediator is a neutral third party whose job it is to listen to both sides of a disagreement and help facilitate a mutually agreed-upon resolution. A mediator does not take sides, and they do not provide legal advice. It is their job to listen to both sides of the dispute, and engage with both parties with the goal of settling on a mutually agreed-upon resolution. 

In order to be qualified in family mediation, a mediator must have formal family mediation training as well as an education in intimate partner violence. Mediators in Ontario can come from many different professional backgrounds, but are often trained in social work, psychology, and/or family law.

How Does the Mediation Process Work?

It is advisable that, prior to beginning a mediation process, both parties consult with their own family lawyers, and come to an understanding of their legal rights.

An initial meeting with a family mediator typically involves a discussion of how the process will go, including both parties’ personal reasons for seeking mediation, and what outcomes you both expect. There may be an individual session between each party and the mediator, in order to allow each to speak freely on the subject of their separation. 

A mediation may be open or closed. Open mediation means that the contents of your discussions in mediation may be used in court. Closed mediation means that, with limited exceptions (when it pertains to a child’s safety), what was said during mediation remains confidential and cannot be brought up in court. All mediations are closed unless both parties agree to open them.

The mediation process is typically composed of joint sessions, in which the mediator may ask guiding questions, and facilitate conversation regarding the terms of the separation. Typical subjects include:

Where conflict arises, the mediator may employ a range of methods to facilitate clear, respectful communication. They may, for instance, physically separate the parties in the event of a deadlock, in order to check in with each individually and allow each to articulate their needs. Throughout the mediation process, the mediator will continue to assess the relationship for signs of domestic violence and/or power imbalances, and implement strategies to prioritize the safety of all involved. 

Some mediation processes are short, lasting just a session or two. Others take multiple sessions in order to reach an agreement.

A final agreement is documented in a Memorandum of Understanding, in which the mediator articulates the parties’ agreed-upon points. Both parties should take this document to their respective lawyers for consultation. It is a family lawyer’s job to verify that the formalities of execution comply with the Family Law Act, and that both parties have provided the complete financial disclosure required in a separation or divorce.

The Benefits of Family Mediation

Settling your separation-related disputes with the help of a family mediator may be less expensive, less stressful, faster, and more private than going to court. Because mediation involves the collaboration of both parties, the process tends to be more civil, inviting the separating spouses to move forward without animosity. Where children are involved, it may also help lay the groundwork for collaborative co-parenting.

Is Mediation Right For Me?

Mediation can be a valuable tool in helping you and your former spouse reach an agreement regarding your separation. However, there are a few things you may wish to keep in mind as you decide what means of decision-making are best for you.

Mediation may be right for you and your former spouse if you both:

  • feel safe to meet and speak with one another;
  • are willing to collaborate on working out a solution;
  • are willing to articulate your needs; and
  • are willing to listen to the concerns and needs of the other person.

Keep in mind that a mediator does not replace a lawyer, and is not able to give either of you legal advice. Both you and your former spouse should each consult with your own family lawyers prior to signing your separation agreement, to ensure both your legal rights are represented.

Our London family lawyers would be happy to review your separation agreements, address your questions, and help you through the process as smoothly as possible.

Contact Our Cohen Highley Trained Mediators Today for a Free Consultation 

Even the most amicable separation is painful, and even the smoothest disentanglement can involve the stress of collaborative decision-making. Working with a family mediator may help you and your former spouse reach an agreement on mutually agreed-on terms. Whether you are considering working with a mediator, or would like to speak with one of our London family lawyers regarding your separation or divorce, contact us today to schedule a consultation.

*Disclaimer: Please note the content in this article is not intended to act as legal advice. It is a general overview on a legal topic. For legal advice specific to your case, please consult with a family lawyer.

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