Family Mediation Services
Mediation is a voluntary way of resolving disputes where a trained mediator helps parties of relatively equal bargaining positions to resolve disputes about family issues.
Mediators are usually social workers, lawyers, psychologists, or other professionals. When these professionals work as family mediators, their job is to help parties reach an agreement on support payments, the division of property, custody of and access to the children, or any other family-related issues. Mediators do not take sides or make decisions for the parties. They also cannot give legal advice.
A party considering mediation should speak to a lawyer before seeing a mediator. It is helpful to know the law and your rights and obligations before mediation starts. Lawyers will usually not go to mediation with the parties. If you are considering mediating a family law matter, you will need to decide whether the mediation will be open or closed.
In closed mediation, all discussions between the parties and are confidential and cannot be used as evidence against either party, with very few exceptions (for example, where concerns arise over the welfare of a child). In addition, the mediator will not report to the lawyers or the court on the progress of the mediation or provide an opinion on the issues that have been discussed in mediation to anyone other than the parties themselves.
Open mediation means that the process is not confidential . With open mediation, the agreement to mediate or mediation contract may also authorize the mediator to prepare a report once the mediation finishes.
Parties should sign an agreement to mediate or mediation contract that sets out whether the mediation will be conducted on an open or closed basis. You can ask a mediator for more information about the differences between open and closed mediations.
It is important for parties to review any agreement reached during mediation with their lawyers before it is signed.
Mediation is not appropriate for everyone, particularly in cases where there has been violence or abuse. Where one party is afraid of, or intimidated by, their spouse, mediation may not be a good idea.
The mediation process is voluntary and parties who are unhappy with the mediation process can leave it at any time.
Mediation Services at Family Court Locations
Family mediation services are available at family court locations in Ontario. These services include mediation of all legal issues arising upon family breakdown: custody, access, support, and equalization of net family property.
Mediation is available on-site in the court facility, and off-site in the mediators' offices. User fees for off-site mediation are charged to clients on a sliding scale based on their income and number of dependents.
Click here for contact information for these services in your area.
If you have concerns about services that have been provided by a mediator in a family court, contact the service provider or manager of court operations. All mediation service providers have complaints procedures in place.