In many situations, divorcing couples want to avoid court. There are a number of alternative dispute resolution processes to choose from, one of which is mediation. Here are a few answers to common questions people have when considering mediation as an option for their divorce or separation.
What is mediation?
Mediation is a process where a separating couple meets with a neutral third-party who assists them in their discussions to reach an agreement. Unlike hiring a lawyer to represent you, a mediator does not work for one party or the other and remains completely neutral throughout the process. They do not make any decisions but facilitates discussion and assists both parties in coming to a Separation Agreement.
When do you hire a mediator?
You may hire a mediator at any time during your separation, even if you are in court. Mediation may not be suitable option if there are concerns regarding mental health issues or abuse.
Who can be a mediator?
There are individuals who are mediators who may not have training or who may not have experience in family law. For financial issues in particular, you should hire a mediator who has experience in family law and the legislation on support and property. Any family lawyer should be able to provide referrals to trained mediators and you can also ask family, friends or colleagues who have been through the mediation process for referrals as well.
What are the benefits of mediation?
There are many benefits to hiring a mediator when going through the divorce process. Unlike in court, the separating couple chooses the mediator (you can’t choose your judge) and retains control over the process and outcome as they negotiate the terms of the agreement, rather than having a solution imposed. Mediation is also private and confidential. Mediation can save legal fees because it often takes less time than matters that proceed in court.
Does a mediator replace a lawyer?
Some people believe that they can hire a mediator instead of a lawyer but that is not the case. Although the mediator will help you to reach a resolution, a lawyer is still required. At a minimum, each party should have their own separate lawyer to review the Separation Agreement before signing but ideally, each party will have had advice from a lawyer prior to mediation so they understand more about their rights and obligations under family law. Even if your mediator is a lawyer, you must still hire your own legal counsel to advise you.