Divorce Mediation: What To Expect And How To Prepare
Divorce mediation is a form of dispute resolution in which a mediator assists divorcing couples voluntarily to reach a settlement that is equally suitable to both parties.
Mediators are often lawyers; however, there are other professionals, such as social workers, trained in the area. It is important that the individual is adept at mediation and family law issues so that the final settlement can withstand the scrutiny of the courts. Mediators cannot give legal advice, take sides or make decisions. They can only guide the negotiations within the remit of family law.
Among the issues negotiated in mediation are property distribution, spousal support and duration, child support, custody and access.
Mediation may not suit all couples, particularly those that have a history of domestic abuse or power imbalance.
What to expect
Once a couple has decided on mediation to resolve their case, they will both need to select a mediator. Mediators are available privately, through the Family Court System as well as in community-based programs and other settings. However, there is a cost to hire them, and the parties typically share that cost.
Each mediator approaches mediation differently but usually tend to travel the same course.
Before actual mediation, the mediator will need background details relating to your case- family situation, marriage and nature of the issues to be resolved. Some mediators require this type of information from the first phone call. Others require that you complete pre-made forms, while others use the first mediation session to gather the information they require.
Either party may opt to attend mediation or have their lawyers do so on their behalf if retained, as well as either party may attend the sessions with their respective lawyers.
Be prepared to sign a mediation agreement ahead of the actual mediation that may address issues such as the role of the mediator and how the sessions will be conducted and concluded.
During negotiations, mediators may meet with parties together or separately, alternating between rooms to resolve the various issues. During the latter arrangement, expect periods of inactivity as the mediator converses with the other party to receive points of view or clarification.
Most mediations are held in camera, and the proceedings are strictly confidential. Neither spouse nor mediator can use any information as evidence in a court hearing except where information is required by law.
How long your mediation will last will depend on the complexity of your issues, the parties involved, the decisiveness of both parties and whether the parties were referred by the courts.
Once negotiations are complete, either the mediator or one of the respective lawyers will draft the divorce settlement agreement inclusive of a parenting plan where children are involved. The document is to be signed by the parties and witnessed. It is legally binding.
A successful mediation is achievable only if both parties are willing to compromise and be committed to the process.
How to prepare
Identify what the issues are
Identify and think about all the issues for which you need resolution. Prepare a list. You will need to provide the mediator with this type of information for the mediation process.
Be judicious about the mediator you hire
An impartial mediator is important to the mediation process. Impartiality allows for a neutral environment in which negotiations can proceed fairly and without favour.
Research mediators as thoroughly as possible before you hire. Ask about their training, expertise, experience and accreditation/education, the number of cases successfully mediated and their references. Choose a mediator who is experienced in mediation and adept at family law issues in your area.
Gather and organize your financial information
Financial information regarding assets, any liabilities, debts, income tax returns, etcetera should be gathered and properly organized. Be very thorough, as failure to disclose any property can leave you in violation of the law. Ensure you have the necessary documentation to support any claims you make.
Hire a lawyer
Although it is not a requirement to retain a lawyer for divorce mediation, it may be beneficial for you to do so. Other than advising on your legal rights, a lawyer can also help you determine which issues to mediate, choose a mediator, strengthen your legal position and decide on settlements. Importantly, a lawyer can help you review your proposed settlement, ensuring that it is as you agreed before you become legally bound.
Your dispute can have a faster and happier resolution if you enter mediation with an open mind. You will likely need to make compromises and sacrifices, and being mentally prepared can allow you to focus on your needs versus wants.
Are you considering mediation?
If you are considering divorce mediation and need a Toronto mediation lawyer, contact us at Baker and Baker Family Law. With over 42 years’ experience in negotiation, our team of knowledgeable and experienced divorce mediation lawyers can bring a creative approach to mediation that leaves you satisfied at the end of the process. Need a consultation? Contact us today!