Mediation is very common and is used increasingly in family law; however, it is often misunderstood. Mediation allows you and your spouse to reach a mutually satisfactory settlement with the help of a neutral, third-party called a mediator. Mediators can be lawyers, mental health professionals, clergy, or other professionals trained in alternative dispute resolution techniques. They can help you resolve issues such as property division, support and custody.
You must understand that mediators cannot give either of you legal advice, despite the fact that the mediator might be a lawyer. They are not a substitute for having your own Toronto divorce lawyer. The mediator’s role is to help you and your spouse communicate and reach agreement while your lawyer’s role is to make sure your legal rights are protected. Some people will participate in a mediation with lawyers and some people participate in mediation without a lawyer present. This will depend on your preference and the preference of the mediator.
There are two types of mediation: open and closed. A closed mediation is confidential and the discussions within the mediation cannot be used as evidence if the matter goes to court. An open mediation is different as it is not confidential. The mediator may even prepare a report after the mediation that could help the judge later on. You and your spouse can decide on whether the mediation should be open or closed and include that decision in a mediation agreement.
Mediation allows you and your spouse to make the decisions and is less expensive than filing a lawsuit. You can reach a positive agreement that is more customized than the one you might receive from a judge.
Mediation is not mandatory in Ontario but it is recommended as a good way to resolve your disputes out of court. Some courts offer family mediation services on-site but mediations can also be done off-site at the private offices of mediators.