When separated parents in dispute think of settling matters where there are difficulties between themselves, they often think of court as the first place to solve things. However, what most parents don’t realize is that for many reasons, court may be the last place they should go to settle matters.
Court tends to be a very slow process and in some cases, can literally take years. Along the way, matters tend to fester, and problems tend to intensify. To add, in the contest of competing views, it is common for one, and at times, both parents to be dissatisfied with the outcome.
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Rather than court, mediation has emerged as the first strategy for separated parents who want to resolve their differences to try. In mediation, the parents meet with a person who acts in the role of neutral facilitator. The mediator helps the much-needed conversation and enables the parents to find their own resolution.
Can We Really Come To An Agreement
While many parents don’t believe they could ever come to an agreement with this kind of help, mediation is successful is some 80% of disputes. Even if mediation isn’t successful in resolving all matters, many problems are still resolved thus narrowing the issues which must be contested at court. The secret to coming to a successful agreement lies in worrying less about winning or losing the agreement, but in seeking an agreement both parents can at least live with.
Benefits Of Mediation
The benefits of mediation are many. Mediation is a much quicker process than court; meetings occur on your schedule and not the court’s; you retain control of the outcome; it minimizes the risk of your children being dragged into your dispute; and it can be far less costly.
What Happens When We Reach An Agreement
Once you achieve an agreement in mediation, the mediator will write up the agreement into something called a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU). To make the MOU legally binding and enforceable by courts, you both take the MOU to your respective lawyers for independent legal advice (ILA), and from there the lawyers will incorporate the MOU into your official settlement agreement.
Most family courts in Ontario have mediation programs available at the courthouse. Parents can access those resources there on their court date or at other times through off-site mediation services. To learn more about court based mediation services, contact the Family Law Information Centre (FLIC office) at your nearest family court, or speak with your family law lawyer.