What is mediation?
Mediation is a way that you and your former partner can try to work out your dispute without going to court. You work with a mediator to talk to one another and come to an agreement about issues such as custody, access, child or spousal support, division of property and the matrimonial home.
Mediation is voluntary; you cannot be forced to mediate if you don’t want to.
Court-based mediation in Ontario is closed. This means that what happens during your mediation sessions is private and cannot be shared with the court or anyone else. The only exception to this is if concerns about the well-being of a child arise, in which case the mediator has a duty to report those concerns to child protection authorities.
How does mediation work?
The mediator must be fair and not favour either person in the dispute. They can suggest ways to solve the conflict, but you do not have to take their advice.
They cannot offer legal advice so you should talk to a lawyer before you take part in mediation. A lawyer can tell you your rights and responsibilities.
If you are not happy with the mediation, you can end it. If you and your former partner cannot come to an agreement, the mediation will end and you will have to try a different way to resolve your issues.
If you come to an agreement at mediation, do not sign the agreement until you get a lawyer to read it.
Legal Aid Ontario can provide up to 6 hours of independent legal advice for people involved with mediation, if you qualify financially. You can get more information about this by calling the LAO toll-free number: 1-800-668-8258.
Is there a fee?
Mediation that takes place at the courthouse is free. There is a sliding scale user fee for off-site mediation. The fee is determined based on your income and number of dependents.
What if there was / is abuse?
Mediation may not be appropriate if your ex-partner has been or is abusive to you. This is because he may try to manipulate or intimidate you into agreement to the outcome he wants rather than being open to sincere negotiations with you to come up with an outcome that can work for both of you.
If you cannot be open and honest with your ex-partner or if you feel that he does not listen to or respect you, mediation may not be a good idea.
You may want to discuss mediation with your legal support advocate before committing to trying it, but also remember that you can end it at any time if it is not working for you.
For more information about mediation visit the Attorney General’s website.