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Family Mediation Process

The Family Mediation process begins when you have agreed to participate and have chosen a mediator. This is formally decided by signing the Agreement to Mediate provided by the mediator. It will further detail the standards, goals and process of Family Mediation for you.

First Contact

Your first contact with your family mediator gives you the chance to discuss the mediation process, the expected outcome and your personal reasons for participating. This is the first step towards cooperating under the guidance of a mediator. It is recommended that all parties seek legal advice prior to entering mediation as well as consulting financial and mental health professionals.

Any information that will influence the mediation has to be disclosed at the onset. In order to properly help you negotiate a settlement, the mediator must be thoroughly informed of the circumstances. At this point the family mediator initiates the screening process.

What is the screening process?

Family mediators will assess for domestic violence and power imbalances in the relationship. Using various methods the family mediator will attempt to identify whether family mediation is the appropriate process and if there is any need to implement strategies to ensure safety of all family members. Screening continues throughout the mediation.

Mediation Sessions

The mediator outline the rules, goals and process of mediation, and remind participants of the importance of communication and cooperation in reaching a settlement.

The mediation process begins with individual sessions so each party can freely express their perspective in the absence of the other party.

At this point the mediation process will proceed to joint sessions where the participants review and confirm the ground rules and goals of the mediation. The parties will determine whether or not the mediation will be open or closed and will sign a contract to mediate.

The contract to mediate includes all issues that require mediation. It may include any of the following items:

  • All aspects of a divorce or separation including child custody and access, child support, spousal support, and the division and equalization of property.
  • Terms of a prenuptial agreement, marriage contract or cohabitation agreement dealing with financial matters while living together, on death and on separation.
  • Points of dispute between parents and children.
  • Family business agreements and arrangements including valuation, establishment, operation, reorganization, succession, dissolution or sale.

The mediator will facilitate a series of discussions leading to an agreement on issues outlined in the contract. Most discussions are conducted with the parties in the same room. The mediator may employ the caucus method to speak to the parties individually during the mediation.

In some instances the parties will be in separate locations throughout the process and the shuttle method is applied which involves participants staying in their separate locations while the mediator navigates back and forth between parties.

Each step may be repeated as many times as needed. Mediation sessions may last between one and two hours, depending on the mediator and the progress. It usually takes multiple sessions to reach a final agreement.

Final Agreement

If an agreement is reached, it is documented by the Family Mediator in the Memorandum of Understanding which is the Mediator’s documentation on the points of agreement reached between the parties.

Each individual should take the Memorandum of Understanding document to their own lawyer for independent legal advice. At this point the process of drafting a Separation Agreement based on the Memo of Understanding begins. Your lawyer will ensure that there has been complete financial disclosure and that the formalities of execution are in compliance with the Family Law Act.