In many Ontario family law cases, a judge will order parties to mediation as a less expensive and more quickly resolved process. It is a much less formal process than going through a trial in court, but still allows you to have your say about things that are important to you.
Family lawyers who have been at this for years know how much work is involved in getting a family law case ready for trial, and how long it takes. They want to avoid spending all that time preparing the case only to have you not settle before trial, so they ask their clients if they’d be interested in trying mediation instead.
Mediators are trained not to take sides or give advice but rather use problem-solving techniques to get the people in conflict talking to each other and hopefully see each other’s point of view. Once they’ve agreed on some issues, the mediator will draw up a written agreement that you’ll both have to sign saying you’ll carry out what was decided at mediation (“I agree to give X person Y amount of money”).
How Does Family Law Mediation Work?
What happens at family law mediation sessions is up to you. You can work on an entire agreement or mediate some parts of your case while leaving others for later (the judge will still decide these). If you’re the only ones in the room, it’s called “direct negotiation”. If everyone meets together with the mediator, it’s called “facilitated mediation”.
You can decide how long you want to meet for. The mediator will set a limit for how many sessions they’ll do, but if you still can’t settle your case after meeting with the mediator several times, the mediator will tell you and work with you on an end date. You can end mediation at any time or change to direct negotiation.
Your lawyer won’t be able to speak for you in mediation unless you allow them. If you’re there without a lawyer, the mediator will talk with both lawyers before and after each session to make sure they know what’s going on and don’t have a problem with what’s happening.
Mediation is private and you can ask the mediator to exclude anyone from being there except for yourself and your spouse, if they have a lawyer.
In mediation, it is imperative that you say exactly what’s on your mind. You don’t have to worry about someone else saying something that will hurt your case or take the one thing you want out of it. The mediator will also be making sure that your spouse stays focused on finding solutions to all the problems, not just the ones they want to talk about.
Is Family Mediation Legally Binding?
Mediation is just for information and negotiation. It doesn’t replace the judge’s decision or take away your right to ask for something in court if you disagree with what was decided at mediation. But once you both sign an agreement after mediation, it becomes legally binding.
The mediator can help by offering suggestions about possible options, but it’s up to you and your spouse to choose what you’ll ask for in mediation.
Mediation can help reduce conflict by showing the way toward a compromise. It’s not always easy, but when everyone feels heard, sometimes people can make decisions they wouldn’t have thought about before and reach agreements that feel fair and work well for all concerned.
How Long Does Family Mediation Take?
It depends. Most family law mediation sessions last about an hour, but some sessions are longer or shorter than that. Mediation can take anywhere from one session to several, with the number of sessions depending on how many issues need to be worked out and how long it takes you to reach agreement about them.
The mediator will tell you at the beginning how many sessions they believe it will take. Scheduling a consultation can help get a good grasp of your meditation timeline.
Speak to the team at Lloyd & Kemper to supply more details about your case and determine if mediation is right for you.