You don’t realize it yet but, in a few short minutes, you’ll discover a reliable way to settle your family law issues with your spouse in your separation or divorce. It’s called family mediation in Ontario.
Many spouses getting separated or divorced use family mediation to solve their outstanding legal issues as a result of their separation. You and your spouse use a trained third party called a mediator to help negotiate a written agreement that deals with your family law issues.
This written agreement is usually turned into a separation agreement. Read this important page on critical information about getting a separation agreement that protects your family law rights.
The mediator does not represent you or your spouse in the mediation process. The mediator cannot give either spouse any legal advice about their family law issues.
The mediator’s main role is to help you and your spouse discuss and negotiate the issues in your separation to reach a written agreement on these issues. These issues include child custody and access, child support, spousal support and property issues.
What are the Benefits of Mediation in Ontario?
The main benefits of family mediation in Ontario are important financial savings and time. When you use mediation, you can often avoid the costly court process. Court can cost thousands and thousands of dollars.
Even when you are in the court process, you can use mediation to settle your legal issues, thereby eliminating any future court costs.
You can save a lot of time as well. The court process can often take more a year to reach trial or a final settlement. You can often settle your family law issues in mediation in a few weeks.
Family mediation can seriously reduce your stress and anxiety by helping you reach a written agreement without the adversarial and confrontational approach involved with court.
When Does Mediation Work For Spouses
in a Separation or Divorce?
You and your spouse must truly want to co-operate to reach a written agreement on your family law issues. The mediation process does not work when you are truly afraid of your spouse or they intimidate you. You must feel comfortable negotiating with your spouse to get a fair and reasonable agreement.
Mediation is not a good option when you or your spouse face criminal charges and you cannot communicate with each other since there are bail conditions in place. A mediator will also probably not assist you with mediation if there is a child protection investigation ongoing in your situation.
When Can You Start Family Mediation?
You can start mediation at any time after you and your spouse have separated. You can begin mediation without ever seeing the inside of a courtroom.
Many spouses decide to start family mediation during the court process since they realize how expensive, long and frustrating the court process will be.
Often the judge will recommend during a court appearance that spouses try mediation.
Put another way, you can use mediation at any point after your separation. However, the longer you are in the court process, the more difficult it can become to reach a settlement with mediation since spouses often become very entrenched or locked into their legal positions.
You should seriously consider mediation as soon as you can after your separation.
Where Do You Find A Mediator in Ontario?
You can use government-funded family mediation. When you are in court, you can often use a mediator on the day of court to help try and settle your family law issues with your spouse. However, you often cannot settle complicated spousal support, property division, and financial issues with on-site court mediation.
You can also find a private family mediator to help settle your legal issues. You want to make sure that your mediator is properly accredited and trained as a mediator.
How Can Your Family Lawyer Help You in Family Mediation?
You will certainly need a lawyer during the family mediation process.
You should consult with a family law and divorce lawyer before you actually start family mediation.
It’s absolutely critical that you understand and protect your family law rights. Your family lawyer can give you specific advice on every aspect of your case.
How can you go to a family mediation meeting to get an agreement with your spouse on the important issues in your case unless you understand your legal rights respecting child custody and access, child support, spousal support and property issues in your case?
Only an experienced family lawyer can give you the critical legal advice you need to protect your family law rights in the family mediation process.
Your lawyer can prepare you for the family mediation process and meetings with the mediator.
Your lawyer will guide you specifically on what types of terms you want for the various issues in your case.
When you get an agreement in principle with your spouse, your lawyer will provide you with independent legal advice. This means that you are getting legal advice from your lawyer on the specific terms of the agreement negotiated through family mediation.
Your lawyer will carefully and diligently review the terms of the proposed agreement with you. He will make any recommendations about changes to the proposed agreement and explain why you should make these changes.
Even though you are using a lawyer to advise you during the family mediation process, you must make sure that the mediation process does not get adversarial. There must be an air of co-operation between everyone involved in the mediation process to ensure you negotiate a fair and reasonable agreement for you and your spouse.
The Importance of Financial Disclosure for Family Mediation
When you have child support, spousal support, and property issues in your case, you need full financial disclosure from your former spouse to reach a fair and reasonable settlement in family mediation. You must also provide this disclosure to your spouse.
You cannot achieve a good settlement without this information.
You really need the services of an experienced family law and divorce lawyer to review this financial information with you before and during the mediation process so that you understand what amounts to a good settlement on these money matters in your separation or divorce.
How Does the Mediator Actually Conduct
the Family Mediation Process?
The mediator must first determine whether your family law situation is appropriate for mediation. If you or your spouse seriously fear the other person or you feel easily intimidated or manipulated by your spouse, mediation is probably not a good option for you. The mediator will usually interview each spouse separately to make this determination.
During the actual mediation sessions, the mediator will allow you to express your worries and concerns in a meaningful way without permitting any confrontation or serious hostility during the meetings.
The mediator will keep you and your spouse focused on the main issues in your separation. She will particularly stress that you and your spouse know the best parenting arrangements for your children. She will encourage you to create a parenting plan that puts the best interests of your children first before your interests or the interests of your spouse.
The mediator works diligently to ensure that you and your spouse are both heard and respected during the family mediation sessions.
Undoubtedly, mediation will only work when you and your spouse are committed to acting in a civil and respectful manner towards each and co-operate in reaching an agreement.
How Long Does Family Mediation Take?
Family mediation usually takes a few sessions to reach an agreement with your spouse. You will probably spend more time in preparing for family mediation sessions in meetings with your lawyer than the actual time spent in the mediation sessions.
Usually, the family mediation process takes much less time than the court process.
More importantly, family mediation is usually much less expensive than the court process.
How is the Actual Agreement Negotiated
in Family Mediation Prepared?
Usually the mediator will write a document called a Memorandum of Understanding. This document specifically sets out what terms the spouses agree on respecting the issues in their case.
Then the mediator will advise you and your spouse to each get a lawyer to review this document. You and your spouse must each get a different lawyer to review the document. This is called independent legal advice.
When you and your spouse are satisfied with the terms of the document, usually one of the lawyers will prepare a separation agreement based on the agreed-upon terms of the Memorandum of Understanding.
The separation agreement will contain a certificate of independent legal advice for each lawyer to sign. When you and your spouse have signed the separation agreement, the agreement is a legally-binding agreement.
What Happens if You or Your Spouse Do Not Sign A Separation
Agreement Based on the Terms of the Mediation Agreement?
When you set up the mediation with your spouse, you often will agree to what is called closed mediation. This means that the mediator cannot reveal what was discussed in the mediation meetings with you and your spouse. If you do not sign a separation agreement based on the terms of the Memorandum of Understanding or the mediation agreement, the mediator cannot disclose the terms of the Memorandum of Understanding.
If you set up “open mediation”, the mediator can write a detailed report in which she states each spouse’s position on the key issues in the separation and what proposals were accepted, changed or rejected. You or your spouse can use this report in court.
You should probably use closed mediation. You want to be as open and frank as possible during the mediation process so that you can reach a fair and reasonable settlement. You do not want to worry at all that anything you say or do in the mediation sessions can be used against you in court.
Keys to Successful Family Mediation in Ontario
Here are the keys to successful mediation to achieve a fair and reasonable separation agreement that protect your family law rights:
- You must consult with an experienced family law and divorce lawyer to understand and protect your legal rights before you start mediation.
- You must get full financial disclosure from your spouse before you start the family mediation process. You cannot get a fair agreement without this crucial information.
- You must feel secure within yourself that you can achieve a fair agreement so that you are not the victim of any possible manipulation or abuse from your spouse.
- You and your spouse must be committed to acting in a civil and co-operative manner towards each other during this process.
- You and your spouse must put the interests of your children first in creating an effective parenting plan as part of your settlement.
- You must have your lawyer carefully review the proposed agreement to ensure that it protects your legal rights and the agreement is fair and reasonable in your particular circumstances.
When you make sure you are following these six keys, you will have a much better chance of achieving a fair and reasonable settlement in your case.
Your Best Protection in the Family Mediation Process
Just imagine for a moment that you did not have to go to court to solve your separation, divorce or family law issues. It’s a nice feeling to avoid the stress, strain, and cost of court, isn’t it?
Make no mistake about it: You can avoid family court by trying to negotiate a written settlement with your former spouse. However, you must make sure your spouse will co-operate in negotiating a fair and reasonable settlement.
If your spouse is simply too difficult to have a reasonable discussion about your family law issues or your spouse intimidates you, you might not be able to negotiate a settlement outside the court process.
Here’s what this all about: You need the help of an experienced family law and divorce lawyer to help you determine whether mediation is the right option for you. In many cases, mediation is an excellent choice.
In any event, you will need a lawyer to advise you on how to negotiate a separation agreement outside court or represent you in family court if required.
In short, your best protection is the advice of an experienced family law and divorce lawyer.
After you come to your consultation with Thomas O’Malley, a capable and solution-driven family lawyer, you will know exactly what you need to do to get a solid separation agreement through the family mediation process or how to protect your rights in family court.
Contact his office now at (905) 434-8837 to protect your legal rights in the family mediation process. You won’t be disappointed.