What Is Mediation?
Mediation is a co-operative problem solving process. A neutral third party, the mediator, assists separating people (couples, grandparents) to work out their own, mutually acceptable agreement.
Parties often reach a creative, fair and practical settlement, even though the conflicts may be complicated and the parties are unable to negotiate on their own.
Mediation is completely voluntary and confidential. Either party is free to withdraw from mediation at any time. In fact, the mediator may terminate the process when he or she feels the process is not useful or appropriate for the parties.
Family court judges and lawyers will tell you that an agreement reached between parties which they can accept as reasonable and in the best interests of their children is much more likely to be a lasting agreement with better outcomes for your children. Mediation enables you to avoid the cost, in terms of dollars, time and stress involved in court proceedings and you will avoid allowing very personal decisions about your children to be made by a complete stranger. While you will need to have a lawyer to prepare the Domestic Contract (separation agreement) and advise you about the Contract, and it may be helpful to have an initial consultation with a family law lawyer, you need not have retained a lawyer to start the mediation process.
How Does It Work?
The process is completely voluntary. Both spouses start by completing an intake form which is not disclosed to the other spouse. It provides the mediator with the basic information about you and the issues you would like to discuss.
The mediator will meet with each of you individually to explain the process in greater detail and assess whether a joint mediation session is right for you.
If it is, you will be asked to sign a mediation agreement at the beginning of a mediation session with both of you.
The mediator will facilitate your discussion about the identified issues. The mediator remains neutral at all times and will not give you advice. The mediator will ensure that you both have an opportunity to say what you want to say and to hear what the other wants to say. The mediator will assist you to reach agreement which will then be recorded in a report which, when given to your lawyers will be the basis for a formal separation agreement.
The goal is for each of you to reach a right understanding between you.