Family mediation services are an integral part of the Family Court and individuals are encouraged to make use of these services as an alternative to the court process. However, mediation is not appropriate for everyone. Mediation is only suited to people who are in a relatively equal negotiating position.
In all cases, mediation services are offered to the clients on a voluntary basis. Fairness of the mediation process requires that both the court and the mediators protect the parties’ right and ability to make free and informed choices about whether and how they would like to settle the issues between them.
Please feel free to contact Mediation North to discuss your particular situation in more detail.
Scope of Mediation Services
Mediation North provides comprehensive on-site and off-site family mediation services. Types of issues to be mediated may include custody, access, support, issues relating to possession of the matrimonial home and division of property/equalization of net family property.
Financial Access to Services
Mediation North will ensure that all clients have access to family mediation services. These services will be provided to clients regardless of their incomes and whether or not they have filed a court application.
Clients who may be eligible for Legal Aid may be directed to LAO to obtain mediation services, if LAO operates a mediation service in their Court location.
On-Site Family Mediation Services
In order to provide the opportunity for quick resolution of issues referred by Judges and lawyers or requested by clients on that day’s court list, Mediation North provides for on-site family mediation services in the community Court(s). On-site family mediation services will include intake for mediation, screening and mediation of narrow issues in appropriate circumstances, primarily custody, access and child support. Clients will not be charged user fees for on-site mediation services.
Off-Site Family Mediation Services
Mediation North also provides off-site mediation and intake. We ensure that all mediation intake appointments are scheduled as soon as possible after the point of referral/consent of all parties. In addition, all off-site mediation intakes and services are available at times that are convenient for clients wherever possible (e.g. evenings and weekends) and take into consideration any future court dates. Accessibility arrangements have been made for clients with disabilities.
Clients will be charged user fees for off-site mediations. User fees are subject to the Harmonized Sales Tax (HST). No user fees shall be charged for family mediation intake services or for on-site mediation services.
Mediation North collects user fees from clients in a manner that does not prevent access to the service by persons of limited financial means. Set user fees may be decreased or waived for those unable to pay them. Mediation North is responsible for determining the client’s ability to pay user fees.
Voluntary Family Mediation
Family mediation services are strictly voluntary. Mediation North will advise clients that not only is mediation not appropriate in all cases, but fairness of the mediation process requires that both courts and mediators protect the parties’ right and ability to make free and informed choices about whether and how they would like to settle the issues between them. Mediation North ensures that all clients understand that a decision not to participate in mediation will have no impact on their legal rights. We ensure that clients are voluntarily participating in mediation at all times.
Cases Involving Domestic Violence/Abuse
All mediators at Mediation North are vigilant in their efforts to screen their clients for abuse and other issues related to power and coercive control. Screening will be conducted during the intake stage and, given that direct disclosure of domestic violence/abuse does not necessarily occur at the intake stage, there will be continuous screening throughout the mediation process. The safety of clients will be placed first and foremost at all times. Whether domestic violence/abuse is identified at intake or later in the process, clients will be given support for their disclosure, urged to obtain independent legal advice (if they have not already done so) and encouraged to explore the availability of protective orders and appropriate community resources.
In providing court-connected family mediation services, each mediator shall:
- make best efforts to identify domestic violence/abuse where it exists;
- ensure that the safety of victims of domestic violence/abuse is paramount;
- offer mediation only when it is truly voluntary;
- permit appropriate safeguards such as shuttle mediation and support persons;
- give clients who have been disempowered by domestic violence/abuse the support and safety they need to refuse to mediate;
- identify cases that are not suitable for mediation and to refuse to mediate in these cases, while suggesting to the parties other means of resolving their dispute and ensuring safe termination;
- encourage assertiveness in victims of domestic violence/abuse;
- provide clients who have been victims of domestic violence with information about community resources that can be of assistance to them.
Family Mediation Intake Process
Once all parties have agreed to pursue family mediation, Mediation North makes sure that each party is seen separately for the purposes of intake and screening.
Before a case is accepted for mediation, the mediator must be satisfied of the following:
- that abuse has not occurred that has rendered either party incapable of mediating;
- that no harm will come to either party or the children as a result of mediating;
- that the parties’ desire the mediate is voluntary;
- that any inequality in bargaining power can be managed so as to ensure that negotiations are balanced and procedurally fair;
- that parties are psychologically ready to mediate and have the capacity to do so;
- that the complexity of the case does not exceed the mediator’s education, training and competence.
To protect clients from blame or reprisal from the other party, in the event that a client is assessed to be unsuitable for mediation, the mediator will indicate only that mediation has been discussed with both parties and the mediator is of the opinion that family mediation would not be the most beneficial method of resolving their dispute at this time.
For off-site mediation services, the intake appointment for each client should take on average one (1) hour.