4. Sign a mediation agreement

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Family Law - Out of court options
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National Self-Represented Litigants Project (NSRLP)

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What is mediation?
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4. Sign a mediation agreement

Your mediator usually drafts your mediation agreement and includes details, such as:

  • the issues you agree to mediate
  • the name of your mediator
  • when mediation meetings take place
  • what documents you have to share and how you share them
  • how you, your partner, or the mediator can end the process if you haven't resolved your issues
  • who pays for the mediator

Before signing the agreement:

  • Read it carefully.
  • Make sure that it includes all the important details about the process.
  • Ask any questions you have.
  • Make sure that you understand it.

Pay attention to how you can end mediation if the process is not working well.

Open or closed mediation

You should also understand the difference between open and closed mediation. Know whether your mediation is open or closed.

Closed mediation means that what happens at your meetings is private or confidential. No one can repeat what was said during your mediation, except in rare situations.

In closed mediation only some documents can be used in court later. For example, income tax returns must be shared in a court case. Otherwise, only the things that you and your partner agreed on can be shared.

Open mediation means that anyone – you, your partner, and your mediator – can give evidence in court about what happened during your mediation. All documents can also be shared.

Most mediation is closed so that both partners can discuss their issues without worrying that a judge will know later what they said in mediation if they later go to court. But other times people agree to open mediation because they want a judge to know what was said to help them resolve their issues.

Legal Advice

You don't need independent legal advice (ILA) before signing your mediation agreement, but it is a good idea.

A lawyer can tell you what the law says about your rights and responsibilities. Rights are what the law says you can get. Responsibilities are what the law says you have to do. If you understand what the law says you can better decide what you will agree to and if your partner is being reasonable.

Legal Aid Ontario may cover the cost of up to 6 hours with a family lawyer to help clients using mediation. A lawyer can help before, during, and after you sign a mediation agreement.

If you can't afford to hire a lawyer for everything, some lawyers provide "unbundled services" or "limited scope retainer" services. This means you pay them to help you with certain things.

If you can't afford to hire a lawyer at all, you may be able to find legal help in other places.

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Ministry of the Attorney General
Reviewed: July 15, 2019

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