Mediation & Separation agreements
Child custody and access
Child and spousal support
Division of property
We are client-oriented and we understand clients want a lawyer who is result-oriented. We can focus on results for you and represent your interest in the following:
Variation of separation agreements due to change in circumstances
Child custody and access
Division of property as well as any other matters which may arise prior to or during the parties’ separation
Variation of a court order due to a change in circumstances
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In an attempt to bring some order to the legal system, the legislators have imposed deadlines on individuals who wish to enforce their legal rights and seek their legal remedies.
There are such deadlines in Family Law and if missed, you risk losing your legal rights and you may be barred from making your legal claim. Judges are not generally in favour of extending a deadline that has been imposed by provincial or federal legislators. This may seem harsh or unfair, however you must protect yourself and take the necessary steps to enforce your legal rights.
We recommend that you contact a lawyer if you think you need legal help or legal advice in Family Law, or legal representation by a lawyer. Do not wait. We will be happy to meet with you to learn about the case and explain to you your legal rights and remedies.
The onus is on your lawyer to explain the cost of his or her legal services. A client should not have to ask. One of the most important elements of a good solicitor-client relationship is an up-front understanding of legal costs. More importantly, a client who has a firm understanding of legal costs is a client who is better prepared to decide on a course of action and instruct his or her lawyer on how to proceed. The fact of the matter is that when a client is facing his or her legal options, legal costs are an integral part of his or her decision.
In Family Law, for example, it is often necessary to hire an expert to place a value on assets such as pensions, Registered Retirement Savings Plans (R.R.S.P.), cottages, and homes BEFORE they are divided up. On occasion, forensic auditors or private investigators are required.
Family mediation is a process in which an independent and neutral third party professional (mediator) assists the parties in negotiating the outstanding issues between them.
These negotiations are done outside of the Court process in a facilitated and controlled process tailored by the mediator.
The process occurs via meetings directly between the parties and the mediator. As the mediator is to remain neutral and cannot provide legal advice to you specifically, it is strongly recommended that the parties to a mediation obtain independent legal advice. The lawyer the parties choose to retain may or may not attend mediation, as the parties may decide. The mediator will provide legal information, legal options, guide the discussion around the various legal issue and can even orient the parties to a range of possible or usual outcomes.
The mediator cannot force an outcome and has no authority to make a ruling or decision. In mediation, the parties always retain the final decisions.
It is generally less costly, both financially and emotionally. The parties are splitting the cost of one professional and their fee to handle the bulk, if not all of the negotiations and the drafting of a final agreement.
Mediation takes place in a private, safe and confidential setting. There is no embarrassing or stressful Court appearance. All information and discussions are meant to be confidential. Court documents, on the other hand, are filed in the public court records for all to see.
The mediation setting is meant to be comfortable, to promote the sharing of ideas and to facilitate settlement discussions. The process is designed by the mediator to suit the parties’ needs.
Once an agreement is reached, the parties’ settlement terms will be drafted into a separation agreement by the mediator who was present and assisted the parties in to reach it. The final product is a reflection of all parties’ settlement terms, without bias. The parties will then be able to take the agreement to their respective lawyer in order to obtain independent legal advice.
A Family Mediation should be considered before choosing litigation for the following reasons:
My role as a mediator, before the mediation sessions commence, is to tailor the mediation session to the needs of the parties and to consider what may be needed to obtain a resolution. It is important to note that every family mediation is different and what works best for some may not be best for others.
The variation is due to multiple reasons:
As your mediator, it will be up to me set the mediation process and the venue but ultimately, it is the parties that will dictate how many mediation sessions are required for the parties to resolve issues. We cannot predict how long the parties will need to resolve issues.
Despite the differences in how the mediation process for a particular family may ultimately unfold, the following are the basic steps in my mediation process, and they are the same for all parties:
I meet with all clients separately as the first step in my mediation process because I firmly believe that individual intake meetings are essential to a successful mediation.
During this meeting, I review the information provided (forms to be filled in and returned prior to the intake meeting are provided to each party) and discuss the mediation process with each party.
Having the opportunity to meet with each client individually allows me to gather more information from each party, investigate each party’s respective expectations with respect to how specific issues will be resolved, screen for domestic violence and power imbalances and investigate the common grounds between the parties prior to the mediation session.
I also provide the parties with a list of information (homework, sort of) that they will need to obtain and documents to provide for the mediation session to be successful, such as financial disclosure that will be required to meet legal obligations.
Ultimately, it may be used to decide if the party is a suitable candidate for mediation (separation too recent, illness, emotional stability, confusion, etc).
Intake meetings are confidential. They provide each client with the opportunity to provide me with background information from their individual perspectives, without fear of criticism, judgment or conflict.
It is important to note that during these meetings, clients are free to ask questions about me, the mediation process itself, how I might handle specific situations which may occur during the mediation process and raise specific concerns about the other person, their ability to participate in a meaningful way or potential outcomes. They are also free to share their views about how they would like specific issues to be resolved. Most people feel much calmer and more confident in their ability to participate in mediation in a meaningful way after their intake meetings.
Intake meetings provide me with a unique opportunity to gather information, both directly and indirectly. Having the opportunity to observe behaviour is often as valuable to me as the information that is communicated to me verbally.
After I have completed the intake process and identified the issues that will need to be discussed during the mediation process, I will provide you with a list of the information and documentation that I need. We will decide how and when the information and documentation will be delivered to me so that I have time to review it before we meet.
Scheduling Your Mediation Sessions
Immediately after both parties have completed the intake process, we will send you a list of available mediation dates so that you may schedule the number of mediation sessions we estimate you will need to complete your discussions.
Some clients attend mediation sessions on their own. They are confident that they have the capacity to share information, receive information, understand it and make informed choices about how the various issues which will ultimately be addressed in their separation agreement should be resolved. They may consult with a lawyer before the mediation process begins, during the mediation process itself, between mediation sessions or only after the process ends but before signing an agreement.
Lawyers often attend mediation with their clients. This is very common where the conflict between parties is high, the legal or factual issues are complicated, or one or both clients feel vulnerable attending on their own.
There are also situations in which new partners, family members or other support people attend the mediation.
Arrangements are always made in advance for anyone other than the parties to attend mediation so that all parties may agree about who will be present at the mediation sessions. All parties need to agree about third parties being present in the office when the mediation takes place. Sometimes only one party brings a lawyer or a support person to the mediation session and the other party is comfortable attending on their own. Sometimes all parties bring lawyers or support people.
In some situations which are factually or legally complicated, we ask experts to attend one or more mediation sessions to share information or to explain their expert reports.
Some parties attend their initial mediation session on their own and it becomes apparent that for them to negotiate an agreement, they require the support and assistance of their lawyers at the table. Conversely, sometimes parties need lawyers at their initial mediation session, and it quickly becomes apparent that with facilitated discussions, they are perfectly capable of negotiating on their own and so they complete the mediation process without lawyers at the table.
It is important to note that mediation sessions are confidential settings and everyone who attends must sign and comply with the confidentiality terms of the mediation agreement.
At the beginning of each mediation session, we will decide together what issues will be addressed during the time that we have scheduled so that important issues are not left to the end of the session. Most often, there is an order in which issues should be discussed because some legal issues are naturally linked.
Some parties are comfortable being in the same room throughout the mediation process. Even when they disagree about how a particular issue should be resolved, they are able to have productive discussions about their differences and ultimately reach an agreement.
Some parties prefer to remain in separate rooms during their mediation sessions because they feel more emotional or vulnerable in the presence of the other party and have better concentration when the other party is not present.
Mediation which takes place with parties in separate rooms is called “shuttle mediation”. It is a very common form of mediation.
Some parties are together in the same room for most of the mediation process, however, each party may speak with me privately to discuss specific issues which may be more difficult to discuss when they are together. These breakouts are known as “caucus” sessions. They are also very common.
Some parties feel particularly vulnerable at the beginning of the mediation session and so they start the session in different rooms. As the negotiation progresses, they realize that they can discuss and agree about a significant number of issues and they ultimately complete their negotiation in the same room.
The decision about whether or not you are in the same room is made on the day of the mediation session itself. It is on that day that you know what process will work best for you.
During the current pandemic, in person meetings and mediation sessions is tricky and we provide alternatives such as virtual meetings through the auspices of providers such as Zoom. Zoom provides a safe and confidential method to meet virtually and provides the ability to have virtual breakout rooms, if necessary, for shuttle mediations or for private meetings during the mediation, such as a caucus.
As an Accredited Family Mediator (AccFM), we are trained in accordance with the stringent criteria set out by Ontario Association for Family Mediation (OAFM), to help you determine what is important to you, understand legal requirements and focus on your best interests to ensure the best possible outcome for your family.
For accredited family mediators, our training ensures that the following goals of family mediation, be respected and enforced: