Family Mediation: The 9 Benefits and Beyond
You could save time and money – mediation often does not require lawyers and takes less time than court action
You can keep your dispute out of the family court system
You get to decide what happens, rather than some judge in the “family justice system”
You are personally involved in creating an agreement that has everyone’s best interests at heart
You approach your dispute positively, which helps reduce stress and the impact on your children
You negotiate directly with your spouse, helping to maintain a civil relationship between the pair of you, which will help make future parenting and other decisions easier
You can discuss and resolve sensitive family issues in private, without having to drag them publicly through the courts
Your settlement agreement will be enforceable
You can bring a friend or family member along to mediation sessions to support you, as long as the other party agrees
Family Mediation as a more amicable way to separate
Family Mediation is voluntary, impartial and confidential. You attend with your spouse not your lawyer, unlike in the collaborative process. The mediator will assist you to discuss the areas of dispute between you in relation to your child, finances or both.
About to separate from your partner or spouse? Chances are you’ll want to do all you can to avoid the expense and stress of taking the matter to court. And if you have children, you’ll definitely want to cushion the impact your separation will have on their well-being.
These factors help explain why so many couples who are splitting up and planning to get divorced choose Family Mediation as a more amicable way to separate. The process offers an Alternate Dispute Resolution service that can resolve your problem without involving lawyers and judges.
That usually makes it a far more affordable and less stressful way of coming to an agreement as regards your separation. There’s no need to drag the matter through the courts. Instead, you can discuss your issues with each other and come to an agreement with the help of a professional and neutral mediator.
Family Mediation: aka Alternative Dispute Resolution
The purpose of Family Mediation is to provide spouses with a way to resolve their disputes that doesn’t involve the traditional, court-based adversarial process, which can cause long term harm and stress to the relationship of former partners, and have a detrimental impact on any children of the disputing spouses. Family Mediation will seek to calmly and methodically find an amicable agreement to all issues that satisfies both parties.
Is a Family Mediator right for me?
All Family Mediation cases have to go through what’s known as Pre-Mediation, which is designed to discover whether entering mediation is suitable for your set of circumstances.
During Pre-Mediation, a mediator will meet with you and your partner separately to discuss your issues and work out whether mediation can help solve them. Should your mediator believe mediation is the right way for you to go, you and your spouse will be asked to sign an Agreement To Mediate. In this document, the nature of the mediation sessions you’ll enter into will be laid out, so you’ll know what to expect from your forthcoming Family Mediation sessions.
What you can expect in Family Mediation
You can expect your mediation to be lead by an impartial, fully trained accredited family mediator in a closed mediation meeting will help both parties embroiled in the dispute reach an agreement about a family law issue. When it comes to separation and divorce, family mediation can help resolve:
- Parenting arrangement disagreements
- Child support issues
- Spousal support quarrels
- How division of property is to work
During family mediation sessions, your mediator will ascertain the issues at stake and the hurdles that need to be overcome. They will then get both parties around the same table and help you amicably discuss your needs and issues, encouraging you both to negotiate and develop solutions and options between yourselves that you both can agree with.
Will I Still Need A Lawyer If I Choose Family Mediation?
It’s always recommended that you hire a family lawyer to provide you with independent legal advice during mediation. Lawyers can provide useful services throughout Family Mediation, including:
Outlining your legal options with advice before entering into mediation
Helping you decide whether mediation is right for you
Giving you advice and insights about potentially confusing legal documents and how they can be used during mediation
Attending your mediation meetings with you, as long as the other side agrees
Reviewing the draft agreement that’s reached following your mediation
Helping resolve issues that might remain following mediation
What Family Mediation Sessions Won’t Do
Mediators aren’t there to give you legal advice – for that you will need to consult lawyers.
Your mediator will not force you and your former partner to come to an agreement. That is something that will have to happen between yourselves. Your mediator is just there to make it easier for you to come to an agreement by giving both parties an equal chance to express their opinions and offer their solutions.
Your mediator will not favour one side over another. They are there to remain totally impartial.
Your mediator will not provide counselling or any therapy assessments during mediation, or for any clients for whom they are providing divorce mediation services.
What’s The Best Way To Approach My Family Mediation Sessions?
You should be well prepared for your Family Law Mediation so that you make the most of the time you have with your mediator. Be sure to learn the basic mediation rules in advance by doing some online research – you might want to check out this page here
Links to Mediation Ground Rules and Intentions Template
Be sure to be polite and honest throughout your mediation session, even if you find it difficult to share the same space with your former spouse. Arguing with each other during mediation is not a constructive use of your time. You are there to come to an agreement. So it’s a good idea to write down ahead of your Family Law Mediation sessions what you want to get out of your meetings, so you’re able to clearly communicate your goals.
You should also consider what your spouse is likely to want out of the mediation sessions and be prepared to compromise or consider creative solutions to avoid potential sticking points and disagreements which could force you all to go to court.
If you vehemently disagree with something during mediation, speak up and state your case with clarity. Try not to get too emotional. Remain level-headed and have your own solutions ready to suggest if your partner’s proposals are not agreeable.
Do I Need To Take Anything To Family Mediation Sessions?
Yes, you should take the following documentation to your meeting:
- Written details of your parenting arrangements
- Written agreements you’ve made
- Statements of income and assessments of tax
- Information about investments, debts and bank accounts
- Property assessments
- Any Court Orders
- The name and contact details of your lawyer (if relevant)
Need Help With Family Mediation?
The team at Divorce the Smartway is available to help with family mediation. Helping you and your partner reach decisions concerning your divorce or separation that are in the best interests of your own and your family’s future. We are professionally trained mediators who can help you resolve all kinds of differences associated with your separation, including child support and parental access issues.
What does Family Mediation Costs
At Divorce the Smartway, family mediation costs are between $160 to $195 per hour, which offers far greater value for money than if you were to seek to resolve your separation issues through the courts.
FACT: The court-based alternative is likely to be even more expensive, as lawyers generally charge more for their services than mediators. And don’t forget, you and your spouse will each have to hire your own separate lawyer, whereas in mediation you both just require the services of a single mediator. What’s more, most family law disputes can be resolved in just two sessions. Court cases can drag on for months, even years.
FACT: The whole point of entering mediation is that it gives you and your spouse the chance decide issues yourselves. The mediator is there to help facilitate constructive dialogue between you and your spouse, not to make decisions for you. Leave it to a judge and they may come to a decision that is not agreeable to one or both of you. Getting mediation is also quicker and therefore usually cheaper than waiting to go to court.
FACT: There are many more ways to come to agreements other than through compromise. Mediators have plenty of ways they can help you reach agreement via creative solutions, and alternatives you may not have considered before or thought possible.
MYTH: No amount of mediation will get my partner to agree to anything, so mediation will be a waste of time.
FACT: Don’t underestimate the power of mediators and Family Law Mediation. Between 70% and 80% of disputes are settled with the help of highly trained mediators.
FACT: Mediators are highly trained to ensure both parties get a fair and equal chance to state their case and offer their suggestions. So it doesn’t matter what kind of personality you have or how well you can communicate, you will get treated equally throughout Family Law Mediation.
FACT: Yes, they are, and their knowledge and legal insights can often be instrumental in helping resolve disputes more efficiently. But you will need to ensure the other party agrees to your lawyer being present. And regardless of whether or not lawyers attend the mediation meetings, it’s always advisable to get your lawyer to review any settlement agreement that results from mediation before you sign it.
FACT: All parties involved in mediation will be required to sign a confidentiality document that ensures no disclosures made during mediation can be used in court at a later date
FACT: While it’s best to enter mediation as early as possible during separation proceedings, it’s never too late. Many judges will order family law mediation before a trial starts, and if one side disagrees, the other side can file a motion to mediate, which is likely to be granted by the judge.
FACT: If mediation fails, you are going to end up in litigation, and that’s a process that gives both parties carte blanche to know the other side’s strategy, so it doesn’t matter that you’ve already revealed yours during mediation.
Family Mediation in Toronto and beyond, other Neutral Professionals
If you feel my Soft Landing Divorce Settlement Method is not a good fit for you or my location is not convenient (and Virtual or Remote Location Mediation is not an option.) It is still vital that you mediate your separation and divorce. You can find more information about dispute resolution processes at the following organizations:
- Ontario Association for Family Mediation
- Family Mediation Canada
- ADR Institute of Ontario
- Family Dispute Resolution Institute of Ontario (FDRIO)
Other Professionals working as Neutrals
Mediation Benefits in Separation and Divorce
Deciding to end a marriage is never an easy decision. It could be that you and your spouse have simply, but irrevocably being driven apart or that you now have irreconcilable differences about important issues. But no matter what your reason is, it can be the right decision to take.
Once the decision has been made to end a marriage though, what happens from there will depend on how the couple approaches the process. Divorce commonly involves several complex legal issues that can be daunting to resolve. This will often be further complicated by a cloud of emotional issues between the spouses.
If the couple are not careful about the approach they decide on, divorce can become an expensive, bitter and protracted affair. The legal and emotional issues involved in the divorce will require cooperation, and a bit of compromise between spouses, both of which will be difficult in a court supervised process.
Usually, couples that want a smooth, swift and fair process will need the services of a skilled family mediator. Compared to a court supervised process, the mediation benefits that a couple can enjoy will be crucial to having a civil and sustainable resolution.
If you have come to the conclusion that divorce is inevitable in your marriage, a family mediator can help you reach a conflict-free and mutually beneficial separation. This will be even more so when children are involved.
You’re likely to have several questions about mediation benefits and what the process looks like. This article will discuss answers to these questions, as well as why mediation will make more sense for your divorce, than a court supervised legal battle.
What does a family mediator do?
A family mediator is a neutral third party professional that is skilled at conflict management and resolution. They usually come from a variety of backgrounds including law, financial, social work, psychology and other professions.
Their job is to help couples that have decided on a divorce reach an amicable settlement of the issues that a divorce will entail. Although every divorce is different and parties often have unique legal, emotional and other issues, they generally revolve around the same issues.
Most couples will be concerned about reaching a favorable agreement on child custody and parenting rights, financial support and property division. Some couples may be capable of working through their disputes with only minimal input from a professional mediator. However, most will have fundamentally different views on their rights and interests in the divorce.
Family mediators help these couples reach a mutually beneficial solution to their disputes. Unlike lawyers whose primary duty in the divorce process is to direct their resources towards making one party “win”, family mediators protect the interests of everyone involved in the divorce.
While they do not take sides or make decisions for the parties, their unbiased position lets them work better towards a solution that counts as a “win” for both parties.
Why mediation for separation?
Family mediation is often considered a softer alternative to marital dispute resolution, and with good reason. Recall that a divorce process is commonly the result of a big spat between a couple that once loved each other, and probably still do.
There will be several issues underlying the divorce, apart from the parenting, financial and legal issues that the parties need to resolve. Due to this, the divorce process will almost always be one huge roller coaster of emotions. In many cases, the parties will be severely at odd ends with each other, but will be unable to clearly explain why.
The adversarial, and often acrimonious, nature of a court supervised process will often do nothing but stoke the flames of the dispute. Although the court may come out with a pronouncement declaring either party the “winner”, the real issues between the parties rarely ever get resolved.
Unfortunately, this will leave a lot of resentment that will simply fester and blow up sometime in the future. Usually over something as mundane as a late support check. This is quite simply no way to achieve a marital separation.
Family mediation allows couples deal with the deep emotional and legal issues that are involved in divorce. It helps parties achieve a total resolution of disputes. Even more important, it will result in the protection of interests of your children in a civil process that will not shatter your kids.
If your interest is in achieving a marital separation that does not leave ashes in your mouth later, family mediation should be your first option.
The top benefits of mediation
The mediation benefits that couples can enjoy through a rational and peaceful process are numerous. Here are some of the top benefits:
Mediation gives the parties control over their separation. In a court supervised process, the judge has the power to make a final ruling. This ruling may not tally with the interests of the couple. Mediation allows the spouses to work things out in their own way.
Family mediation can be much faster than litigation. It produces much quicker mutually agreed win-win results and can be done in a matter of hours or at most days. Litigation has been known to take years before coming to an end.
With family mediation, the parties can come to a deeper resolution of their marital and separation issues. The court will not have time to entertain all issues, and will usually restrict itself to only the legal aspects.
Mediation allows the spouses to focus on what would be best for their children. In a court supervised proceeding, this determination will be left to the judge. That may not turn out how you expect.
Mediation also costs far less than what couples can expect to spend in a protracted legal battle.
Finally, family mediation is private and confidential. It is absolutely private, unlike litigation and nothing you discuss with the mediator can be used in court. So you can rest assured that if participating in mediation does not work for you, it would not have ruined your ability to approach the court.
Importance of mediation to a favourable outcome
Every part of the mediation process is designed to get at the root problems in your divorce and help you resolve them amicably. Even if you and your spouse have been very civil about the separation, mediation provides a way for you to reach well-informed and collaborative decisions.
Family mediation does not try to keep you and your spouse together. That’s a job for family counselling. Mediation accepts that change happens and that time has come for you and your spouse. It helps the relationship between the parties move forward to the next stage of their lives in a positive way.
No matter how you see it, deciding to adopt a mediation process in your divorce will result in a favourable outcome. You have a much better chance of resolving disputes and having your interests fulfilled when you are in control of the process, instead of a judge that barely knows your family.
What does mediation cost?
Much less than most assume. And definitely way less than couples would usually spend in a court supervised process. A contested legal divorce will set you and your spouse back by $18,000 to $35,000 depending on how long your divorce takes.
Family mediation usually costs the disputing parties only a fraction of that amount. If you have a particularly lengthy divorce with more complex issues than usual, it may cost slightly more.
However, most family mediators will help you fully understand the cost of the proceeding and how you can limit your expenses. It’s in everyone’s best interest for the ongoing relationship to have a speedy, amicable and fair resolution. You can be sure your mediator will be working to achieve those ends, and protect your pocket in the process.
How Mediation Benefits the Kids
You’re splitting up. That much you and your spouse know for sure. Beyond that, who knows? Friends and family are treading on egg shells, trying to be understanding. But many of the decisions you face, you’re going to have to face alone.
Amid all this, there’s a word that keeps coming up: mediation. You’re not looking forward to the emotional and financial cost of lawyers and courts, and you’ve heard that mediation benefits everyone – you and your kids. Sounds appealing, but does it really work? Is there evidence out there to say for sure that mediation will work out better than litigation in the long run?
Emery’s Mediation Study focused for 12 years on a high conflict group – young and low-income families who had filed for a contested custody hearing.
To assess if there was a difference between separations handled by the alternative dispute process of mediation and those handled by lawyers through the courts, a flip of a coin decided whether a family would go into mediation, or seek a settlement through court cases in the traditional adversarial system. So pure chance decided which family took which route.
And in the study, the mediation was short – averaging only 5 hours per family – usually, mediation lasts a bit longer. The sessions were problem-focused but sensitive to emotions – in particular grief.
The study's results
Of the families that went down the adversarial path, 75% ended up before a judge, whereas less than 20% who mediated ended up in court. Even when mediation failed, parents tended to settle out of court with the help of their lawyers. Interesting. Had the exposure to mediation sown seeds of compromise and understanding that was lacking in those who went straight to court?
Following the families for so long enabled the study to reveal what happened to these high-conflict families in the years following the parents’ separation. And the results are truly eye-opening.
Mediation Benefits - More Parent - Child Face-To-Face Contact
Just 5 hours of mediation caused the non-residential parent to see more of their children, even 12 years after the separation. That contrasts to the dramatic drop-off in contact you see after the typical American divorce:
- 28% of non-residential parents who mediated saw their children weekly 12 years later
- Only 9% of non-residential parents who litigated did likewise
- The national average is 11%
Mediation Benefits - More Parent - Child Telephone Contact
If those results of seeing children face-to-face were impressive, when it came to telephone contact between non-residential parents and their kids, there’s even better news:
- 52% who mediated talked to their children weekly 12 years later
- Whereas only 14% who litigated did so. (The national average is 18%).
Remember, the families in this study were randomly assigned by the toss of coin, either to mediate or litigate. So we can say with confidence that the 5 hours of mediation were the direct cause of the differences in these results.
Mediation Benefits - Better Parent To Parent Appreciation
The study went even further by asking residential parents to grade the parenting skills of the non-residential parent. And residential parents who mediated gave their former spouses better grades in every area –
- Religious and moral training
- Errand running
- Holiday celebrations
- Involvement in significant events
- School and church activities
- Discussing problems with each other
Remember, those families who mediated had, on average, just 5 hours of mediation. These results show that mediation is way more effective at fostering better long-term relations between separating couples, which can only be good for the children. It’s certainly way less disruptive and damaging than the alternative – litigation.
Dr. Emery’s 12 Year longitudinal Mediation Study - Summary
Mediation Benefits - Study Conclusions
Mediation has the power to shape a more understanding future relationship between separating spouses, and a closer relationship with the children, by showing separating couples:
- They both have a voice
- The importance of taking a long-term view
- The advantages of working together
- How vital co-parenting and learning about their children’s needs is
- To recognize their own grief and see how it can be the cause of anger
This point about anger is important. At the time of separation, the idea of calmly sitting down with your spouse and rationally discussing matters in a mediation session goes against the grain. The temptation often is to shout out ‘I never want to see you again!’ Anger is the natural reaction, because it’s how we humans cover-up our hurt, grief and pain.
Amid all this, mediation asks parents to do something different. To think not of themselves, but of their kids. Having to face and work with the person you’re splitting from can increase the emotional pain and hurt, but as this study shows, working together for the sake of your children is the right thing to do.
Because it works. Mediation benefits everyone.
About Dr. Robert Emery
Robert Emery, Ph.D., is a Professor of Psychology and Director of the Center for Children, Families, and the Law at the University of Virginia. He is also an associate faculty member in the Institute of Law, Psychiatry, and Public Policy, and was Director of Clinical Training from 1993-2002. He received his B.A. from Brown University in 1974 and his Ph.D. from the State University of New York at Stony Brook in 1982.
He has served or is serving on the editorial board of eleven professional journals, and he has been a member of the Social Sciences and Population grant review study section of the National Institutes of Health. Dr. Emery is the author of over 100 scientific publications and several books.
Where to find a Neutral Professional
Mediators may also be members of one of the following organizations, each of which provides standards of professional conduct and complaints processes:
- Ontario Association for Family Mediation
- Family Mediation Canada
- ADR Institute of Ontario
- Family Dispute Resolution Institute of Ontario (FDRIO)
Other Professionals working as Neutrals
As a Certified Divorce Financial Analyst (CDFA) and Family Mediator, Ken Maynard is uniquely skilled to help you reach an amicable marital separation.
Being a survivor of court-supervised divorce himself (twice), he knows what it feels like to be caught in the harrowing experience of divorce litigation. He has helped many couples reach financially equitable divorce settlements and fundamental resolutions to long-term issues.
His primary concern is helping you avoid the financial and emotional ramifications of a protracted divorce. Call toll-free today at 1.855.731.3500 to start a conversation regarding your divorce.
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