What is family law mediation?
Mediation in family law involves using a trained third party, known as a mediator (or a lawyer mediator if the mediator is also a lawyer), to facilitate a mutually-acceptable settlement of a couple’s outstanding family law matters. Sometimes, the parties will attend the mediation with their individual lawyers. Other mediations occur with just the parties and the mediator. In this case, each party would need to get independent legal advice. A successful mediation can result in minutes of settlement, memorandum of consent, consent orders, and terms to be drafted into a separation agreement. Depending on the conditions of the mediation, a lawyer mediator may also be responsible for drafting any orders or separation agreements, which would then be reviewed by each party’s lawyer.
Is family law mediation right for you?
Mediation can be an excellent solution for some couples. It can be less costly, it is less formal, you don’t have to go to court, and it can allow the parties to work out a solution that is best for everyone. However, it isn’t right for every situation. The following are some important points you should consider when thinking about family law mediation:
- Mediation needs to be voluntary.
- Mediation may not be an appropriate process in some situations, such as when there is a history of family violence (violence against women), an extreme power imbalance between the parties, or a high level of conflict.
- Parties need to be willing to engage and constructively participate in the mediation process.
- Parties need to be willing to be honest and completely disclose all financial information.
- The mediator does not provide legal advice to either party but may provide legal information.
- Parties should obtain independent legal advice, ideally before attending the mediation session. Optionally, each party can bring his/her own lawyer to the mediation.
- The mediator does not decide the outcome of the mediation. The mediator facilitates the process.
- For a lawyer mediator, the mediator should be a trained family law mediator.
How can Suleman Family Law help with your mediation?
If family law mediation seems like a good fit for you and your partner, our experienced family law mediator Zara Suleman would be happy to help with your mediation. Please visit our Getting Started page to learn about the first steps for any of our new clients. Here’s what you need to know specifically about our mediation process:
- Before we start the mediation process, Zara will meet with each party to make sure mediation is the right process for your situation. As family law mediators we have an obligation to screen for family violence issues.
- If mediation remains the appropriate process, we will schedule a mediation date that works for everyone. (If it’s not, we will advise you what we think would be a better approach for you.)
- Both parties need to provide full disclosure of all their financial information, including all assets and liabilities. Some examples are annual income, RRSP savings, bank savings, business investments, mortgage, personal loans, and assets such as cars, furniture, etc.
- At Suleman Family Law, we prefer, where appropriate and if possible, to conduct mediations with just the separating parties. We have used this model to successfully help facilitate separating couples to a resolution of their outstanding matters. In this scenario we would require that each party seek their independent legal advice both in advance of the mediation session and prior to signing any resulting separation agreements or minutes of settlement.
When does mediation work?
Mediation can work if you can be respectful with your ex-partner and you are willing to listen to each other in order to negotiate matters towards a settlement that considers a variety of options and creative solutions. You have to understand and accept you will likely not get everything you want and will need to compromise on some issues. Mediation is a process but in the end you get to have a choice in what you are willing to put on and take off the table towards a resolution. Unlike the litigation process, a third party (a Judge) is not determining your fate – you are.
Mediation is not easy and it is important that you understand that mediations take time and energy. Every mediator has their own style of doing mediations; therefore, it is important you and your ex-partner choose someone that will best suit your needs. Remember, a mediator facilitates the process, but in the end a successful mediation will rely on the work you and your ex-partner are able and willing to do during your family law mediation.
Please contact Suleman Family Law for more information or to schedule an appointment.
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