How do I know if mediation is right for me?

Reasons to mediate include:

Are there any reasons not to mediate?

Reasons not to mediate include:

How does the mediation process work?

Your mediation agreement will explain the details of how mediation will take place. You can also ask your mediator if you have questions about the process. They can explain things like how long meetings will be, if they will meet with you and your partner separately or together, and what documents you should bring to each meeting.

What financial information do we share?

If you need to resolve property or support issues, it is very important that you share complete and honest information about your income, assets, and debts. This is called financial disclosure. You can share this information in many ways. For example, you could use a computer spreadsheet that lists your financial information.

You can also fill out one of the financial statement court forms. Many people use these forms even if they don't go to court. The forms can be useful because they show you what a court looks at when deciding support and property issues. They also help you see what type of information you and your partner need to give each other.

When making your agreement, if you or your partner shared financial information that was not true or hid information on an important asset or debt, a court may decide that the process was not fair.

Your mediator will help you figure out what information needs to be shared to reach a legally enforceable agreement according to your particular circumstances.

How much does it cost?

The time spent on your matter gets billed to you at my hourly rate. The amount of time needed always depends upon how many issues there are and how simple or complex the facts are. Usually spouses divide the payment 50-50, but other arrangements are possible. Click here for a pricing breakdown.

How long does it take?

The amount of time needed always depends upon how many issues there are and how simple or complex the facts are. On average, a mediation dealing with separation usually takes between three and five sessions. This can vary depending on the case.

Do you provide legal advice?

No. I am a licensed lawyer but, in my capacity as a mediator, I only give legal information. Because of my experience of about ten years litigating in family court, I am able to provide valuable information about the complexities of the law. When I speak to couples about the pros and cons of court, I am speaking from experience. If you desire, you can hire a family lawyer to provide a review of the proposed agreement, once you have reached it. This is called Independent Legal Advice (ILA). The Family Law Act of Ontario guarantees that you have this right. You can voluntarily waive it, however each individual in family mediation has a right to seek ILA.

How is a mediator different from a lawyer?

A mediator doesn't work for you the way a lawyer does. Mediators balance your needs with your partner's needs. They don't have to keep their discussions with you private from your partner, like your lawyer does.

A mediator cannot give you Independent Legal Advice (ILA). You don't absolutely need ILA before signing your mediation agreement, but it is a good idea. If you hire a lawyer for ILA, here is what they can tell you about your rights and responsibilities, for example:

Is the agreement I reach with my spouse legally enforceable?

Having a lawyer provide ILA on your agreement is one thing that helps make it enforceable. A binding agreement means that if either of you stop following the agreement, the court can order you or your partner to do what the agreement says.

Once you and your partner have made a binding agreement, it will not be easy to set aside your agreement (“setting aside” means asking the court to allow you not follow the agreement).

For example, the court will not set aside an agreement just because one of you has changed your mind and now thinks your agreement is not fair. But the court may allow you to set aside all or part of the agreement if it wasn't negotiated fairly because one of you didn't share your financial information honestly.

If you just want the portions dealing with support to be handled by the Family Responsibility Office (FRO), there is also a process to file your agreement with the court as if it were a court order.

How is mediation different from court?

Mediation is private and confidential.

In contrast, once you start a court case, your file is usually open to anyone. Strangers can read your court documents. The public can sit in your court cases and watch. When you use mediation, you keep control of you process in a way that is not possible in a court action:

What if I can do better in court?

This is something that most people worry about. The truth is that, since 1983, the Ontario Family Court system has recognized two things: (1) court is NOT the best place to decide these things; and (2) out-of-court processes must be encouraged and upheld wherever possible (see below). Also, nearly every case that starts in court, ends up being decided outside of court by some kind of alternative dispute resolution process.

In 1983, the Ontario Court of Appeal Justice Zuber wrote:

What if my spouse is a better negotiator than I am?

In almost every case, one spouse is a better negotiator than the other. However, there are many factors in the mediation process that help to equalize bargaining power.

Can what happened during the mediation be used in court processes?

No. The mediation process is confidential. What happens in mediation cannot be used against each other. This fact encourages a full and frank discussion and helps you get to a durable agreement.

Are the children involved?

No, children are not involved in the mediation meetings. If you and your spouse have a deeper disagreement about parenting the children, there are ways of addressing this by having a specialist — who is also committed to resolution outside of court — work with you and the children.

Is it voluntary?

Yes. You cannot be forced to enter mediation.

Can I terminate the mediation process?

Yes, at any time.