A. Mediation is a form of alternative dispute resolution. It lets people who are in conflict develop a mutually acceptable agreement with the support of an impartial professional who guides the negotiation . The term "alternative" means a using a different option than going through lawyers and court.
The mediator takes no sides in the dispute and does not represent one party's interests over the other's. Rather, the mediator facilitates the communication between the parties in a way that emphasizes areas where the parties are in or close to agreement, and then works looking for areas where each can be flexible enough that they can make a compromise that both feel is fair and reasonable.
The process is voluntary and confidential.
The Attorney General recommends that separating couples (or other family members in conflict) who cannot reach a settlement on their own enter mediation as a means of resolving their differences, and to think of court only as a last resort, if mediation has failed.
Monica has worked with many separating couples and families going through divorce over the last twenty years. Her familiarity with issues of concern can help answer questions for couples and families experiencing the process now.
Q. What are the benefits of mediation?
A. Many clients who participate in mediation point to the calm, non-confrontational atmosphere as the best part of the process. Since mediation emphasizes areas of agreement - and, in cases where children are involved, their best interests - rather than emphasizing the separate, individual positions of opposing parties, participants typically comment on how much less stress was involved compared to reports of friends or relatives who went through litigation. In the words of a client, mediation "…..allowed us make decisions about our future, separate lives with peace and dignity."
Mediation can be very time-effective. Subject to availability of the mediator, participants can begin at the process as soon as they wish. They can also choose appointment times according to their own convenience (subject to mediator availability). They need not await a court date, nor work around the time assigned to them.
Mediation can also be cost-effective method of resolving conflict. Clients pay one professional fee rather than two. Hourly rates tend to be lower than traditional legal fees.
One of the most important, but often overlooked, benefits of mediation is how the resulting written agreement can be custom-tailored to the preferences of the individual parties involved. In cases where the parties choose to go to court, it will ultimately be the judge who imposes the decisions, which then become legally binding upon the parties. By contrast, mediation allows the parties to reach agreement on the issues of mediation in a way that works for their unique situation, and which leaves room for creative solutions that may not be considered in a time-pressed courtroom.
Civil and commercial mediation cases mostly involve parties who need not see one another again after the process concludes. But in the case of many (if not most) family mediation cases, the parties need to continue to keep in contact with one another after the process concludes due to ongoing shared responsibility for their children. It is not unusual for individuals in such cases to provide feedback to the mediator stating that the parties continued to utilize communication techniques from the mediation sessions with one another, and that this had had a positive, tension-defusing effect on their continuing relationship.
Q. What types of mediation are there?
A: There are two main types of mediation: family, and civil/commercial.
Family mediators work with couples in process of separation or divorce, family members experiencing cross-generational conflict, those going through transitions such as new members or blending, and so on. There is also a sub-category of family mediators known as child protection mediators, who work with families drawn into the child welfare & protection system.
Civil/commercial mediators work with individuals engaged in business disputes, workplace conflict, contract disagreements, and so on.
Monica specializes in family mediation. If you wish to pursue civil/commercial mediation or child protection mediation, Monica would be pleased to refer you to her office colleague who specializes in those forms of mediation.
Q. How does mediation work?
A. There are 4 phases: initial consultation, intake, joint session(s), creation of document.
Initial consultation: this usually takes place over the phone or in person. The parties share the basic details of their case, and the mediator provides information about his/her services and the process. Monica offers initial consultation free of charge.
Intake: The mediator holds a session with each party separately. The purpose of the intake session is to become familiar with each party's candid individual perspective and concerns, free of any "filtering" that might take place if the other party were present. The mediator may also review any relevant documents the parties share which have bearing on the issues of mediation.
Joint session: Parties and mediator sign an agreement with one another, outlining their individual roles and responsibilities during the process. Negotiation then begins, and continues until the issues of mediation are resolved or a decision made to postpone consultation on that item to a later date. Number & complexity of the issues, together with willingness of the parties to work together to find common ground, will dictate whether repeat joint sessions are required or whether the initial joint session is sufficient.
Document Creation: Once the parties have completed negotiation, the mediator prepares a written document ("Memorandum of Understanding") itemizing the results and shares it with each party for their review and any corrections. Once the parties have decided that they do not wish any changes, the mediator provides each with the final version and the account is settled.
Q. What happens after the parties receive the final version of their Memorandum of Understanding?
A. Once the mediator's role has concluded through delivery of the written agreement, the parties have two options.
They can either sign the document in the presence of a witness, and then have it filed in court. Alternatively, prior to filing in court, they can submit the Memorandum of Understanding to their individual lawyers, so as to become informed of their individual rights & responsibilities with respect to the decisions made.
Monica recommends that the parties review the written document with their individual lawyers prior to filing in court.
Q. What if I want to participate in mediation but the other party is somewhere else? What if I want to participate in mediation but we prefer/are not allowed to have direct contact?
A: In situations where parties wish to go through mediator but are not currently in the same location, it may be possible to arrange 3-way phone calls, or videoconferencing.
In situations where 1 or both parties prefer not to engage in face-to-face contact, or where such direct contact is prohibited (for example, if a restraining order is in effect), it is possible to engage in shuttle mediation. During shuttle mediation, the parties are located in separate rooms, and the mediator travels between them. This can make the process take somewhat longer than a regular joint session, but it increases the likelihood of successful outcome in cases where communication may deteriorate entirely if parties speak directly with one another. It also allows parties with restraining orders in place to feel safe while working towards resolution of the issues of mediation between them.
Q. How should I choose a family mediator?
A. There are two aspects clients can consider. One is the level of training and qualification a mediator has obtained, Another is whether a mediator's personal style speaks to them.
Regarding qualification, currently anyone can call him- or herself a mediator if they so wish. Consequently, clients may wish to inform themselves about a potential candidate's relevant experience and whether he or she has completed a full academic program at a reputable educational institution, as well as thorough practical component in the field such as a practicum under the supervision of a qualified senior mediator. Clients may also wish to inquire whether a potential candidate is part of a professional overseeing body which holds its members to the highest ethical and professional standards.
Monica informally assisted couples with parenting plans and separation agreements for almost two decades prior to entering formal training at York University. She graduated from the family mediation program of York University and completed a full year as an intern, co-mediating a large variety of family mediation cases. She is now an accredited member of the Ontario Association of Family Mediators.
Regarding personal style, Monica offers initial consultation free of charge. This can help clients develop a sense of her approach, and make a decision on whether they feel comfortable with her communication and answers to their questions.
Q. What areas are covered? A. Monica provides the following mediation services: