Family mediation is a common legal alternative that many people choose when going through divorce or separation. But what is it exactly, and how does mediation work in Ontario?

Family mediation in Ontario allows both spouses to sit down, systematically work through their differences, establish terms and conditions, and produce an agreeable solution using an objective third party.

Here is a step-by-step guide to family mediation, how it works in Ontario, and some details that can help you decide if it is the right path for you. 

What is Mediation in Family Law? 

Mediation is the process of using a neutral third party to reach an agreement between two or more parties.

Mediation in family law can include things like: 

  • Property division
  • Support payments
  • Decision-making and parenting time with respect to minor children

Mediation may be an option if you and the other person can’t agree on matters related to separation or divorce. 

Mediation can be faster and cheaper than going to court as the parties can often achieve a resolution without a drawn-out process. It is also more private as these meetings tend to take place in office suites rather than courtrooms.

What Are the Benefits of Mediation 

There are many benefits to choosing family mediation. 

Some of the benefits of using family law mediation in Ontario include:

  • Fairness and neutrality. The mediation process treats both sides equally, and the terms are set by the mediator rather than one of the conflicting parties. 
  • It is less risky and more cost-effective than litigation.
  • Parties can avoid the possibility of public exposure of sensitive business information.
  • Parties can avoid lengthy litigation.
  • Mediation encourages self-awareness and problem-solving of a conflict.
  • Mediation provides a safe and neutral environment to discuss topics. It can promote open communication and positive change for both parties involved.
  • Parties are more in control of the resolution. 
  • A mediator assists both parties in dispute resolution.
  • Mediation can help to repair relationships that may have been damaged through a lack of communication or unexplained feelings. 

family mediation after seperation

Types of Mediation 

There are two types of mediation, closed and open, and you can decide which type is more appropriate for your situation. Mediation is closed unless both parties agree for it to be open.

Closed Mediation

Closed mediation is confidential; generally, anyone involved cannot share information from mediation with the court. There are exceptions to this, however, like when the mediator is concerned about a child’s safety. In closed mediation, there’s usually limited public knowledge of the process and issues mediated.

Open Mediation

In open mediation, the process is not private. It can be conducted online or by telephone, or in person. You and the other party will be able to share and discuss the mediation discussion; however, all of the documents associated with the mediation will go toward future litigation.

When Should You Start the Mediation Process?

The mediation process can begin any time after you and your spouse have separated. And the sooner you start the process, the more money, time, and stress you will likely save.

Couples often choose mediation after the court process has begun, making mediation more difficult. Individuals tend to become deeply attached to their legal position, which complicates the types of negotiations required for mediation. 

Family mediation should be one of the first considerations after separation. 

When is Mediation Not Appropriate

family mediation lawyer

Family mediation is not appropriate when there is a threat of violence, a significant power imbalance, or intense conflict. 

An experienced mediator or family lawyer will ask a series of questions to determine whether or not mediation is an appropriate course of action. 

Factors that make mediation inappropriate include: 

  • When a threat of abuse or domestic violence is present
  • Either party is acting in bad faith
  • Either party is opportunistic
  • Either party will not compromise
  • The parties to the dispute can’t solve their problem because they don’t have the power to change or resolve anything
  • Either party is disputing a law or governance or if there is a legal precedent that may affect later cases

Where to Find a Mediator in Ontario

There are a few places where you can find a mediator in Ontario. 

  • Contact a family mediation service provider through the Ontario family court
  • Contact a mediator in private practice
  • Contact a family lawyer

While a family mediator is not required to be a lawyer, a mediator can usually only facilitate a Separation Agreement if they are a licensed lawyer.

An experienced mediator is the best option. Look for one that has the proper educational background and has experience with family law.

Family mediation is often more affordable and can prevent major disputes. It can help families communicate when they are at odds with one another, especially around matters of spousal support, property division, and finances.

How Does Your Family Lawyer Help With the Mediation Process?

An experienced family lawyer can ensure that your needs are met and attend mediation sessions with you during the mediation process.

Mediation is not a replacement for legal advice. It should not be used as an alternative but as an additional tool. 

Alternatively, your attorney doesn’t have to attend the mediation session, but they are great for providing expert opinions or navigating complex legal issues throughout your case.

The best way to anticipate what can be expected is by understanding your legal rights regarding custody-related issues, child support, spousal support, and property issues.

You need a family lawyer to help you prepare and make the most of mediation. They can protect your rights, so you get the best outcome.

You may also want to review the terms of any proposed agreement with your lawyer. They can then make suggested changes and often explain why you should alter certain aspects of the contract.

It is important to have legal counsel during the family mediation process. You might face an adversarial situation where conflict arises due to a number of mitigating factors. Recruiting legal support during this time can ensure that your interests are being looked after effectively.

family lawyers

How Much Does Mediation Cost in Ontario

Mediation is much less expensive than going to court. The average cost of mediation in Ontario is typically under $5,000, while a court case can range from $5,000 to $25,000.

There are options for mediation with differing costs:

On-site mediation is available to parties when their case is scheduled for court and is a free service.

Off-site, virtual mediation is available for a fee. Mediation fees vary depending on your income and the number of dependents involved. Some providers may offer a discount due to individual circumstances.

Legal Aid Ontario may be able to offer free services like mediation if you or the other party in question qualify as low-income.

Protect Yourself During the Family Mediation Process

You can avoid the worries, strain, and cost of a lengthy court battle when going through a marital split by negotiating with your former spouse through mediation. 

In any divorce or family separation, it is critical to determine the best way forward, and this is precisely what an experienced family law and divorce lawyer can do. They’ll help you determine if mediation or litigation is most effective from your point of view.

The experienced team at RBHF is well-practiced in Family Law and is ready to work with you to find the best solution for your particular circumstance. 

We understand the complexities of separation and divorce. While we are prepared to represent you in court, we also offer alternate dispute resolution, helping you to reach a satisfactory settlement through negotiation and mediation. 

Contact us today to learn more or to book a consultation.