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What is mediation?

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What is mediation?
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National Self-Represented Litigants Project (NSRLP)

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What is mediation?
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Reviewed: 
July 15, 2019
Answer

Mediation is an alternative dispute resolution process where you and your partner meet with a mediator to resolve your legal issues without going to court.

Mediation is voluntary. This means that you and your partner have to agree to work with a mediator. You cannot be forced to use mediation, or forced to agree on your issues.

A mediator is a person trained to help you agree on your issues without taking sides. They help you and your partner during your negotiation to try and reach an agreement.

Mediators don't make decisions and don't force you or your partner to agree. They help you to speak with each other and to understand each other's position. Their goal is to help you both compromise and agree on things.

Some lawyers, social workers, and other professionals are trained to be mediators.

Mediators are trained to:

  • mediate safely and look for signs of partner abuse
  • not take sides when working with partners with different interests
  • help each partner see the other's point of view
  • help partners agree when they see they have similar interests and concerns

In some cases, mediation is free or subsidized so that the cost is based on your income. 

For example, each family court location in Ontario offers subsidized mediation services. You can get up to 8 hours of mediation for a fee that is based on each person's income. You can use this service whether or not you have a court case. And if you have a court case, you can get up to 2 hours of mediation for free at the court.

If you and your partner agree on your issues, you can put your agreement in writing in a separation agreement.

A mediator cannot give you independent legal advice (ILA). Only a lawyer can give you ILA. If you are trying mediation, it is still a good idea for you and your partner to both have your own lawyer. 

Your lawyer doesn't have to go to mediation with you. They can advise you on:

  • how the law applies to your situation
  • how mediation works before you sign a mediation agreement
  • how signing a separation agreement changes your rights

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