Family mediation is a way for couples to settle issues arising from a breakup without having to bring the dispute to court. A neutral mediator helps the couple reach a fair agreement on the issues submitted to the mediator.
Important! This article deals only with mediation by a certified mediator.
Mediation is . . .
a way to help couples agree on these issues:
- custody of their children
- child support
- support payments to one of the spouses, if they were married
- division of their property
It is usually a voluntary process: either spouse can refuse to participate in mediation or end the mediation sessions at any time without giving a reason.
Mediation is not . . .
- psychological help
- couples therapy
- a way to save the marriage
Also, mediation is not for everyone. For example, experts don't recommend family mediation if either spouse is in one of these situations:
- is a victim of family violence
- has a mental illness
The mediator helps the couple reach a fair agreement on the subjects discussed during mediation.
To do this, the mediator has these responsibilities:
- make sure both spouses have a chance to explain their needs and wishes
- make sure everyone is respectful and both spouses are treated equally during the mediation sessions
- help the couple put their children's needs first
The mediator cannot do these things:
- make decisions for the couple (because mediators are not judges)
- represent one of the spouses
- take one spouse's side
- give legal opinions
The mediator can do these things:
- end the mediation at any time if the session is not going well
- suggest that the spouses meet with a legal professional if they need a legal opinion on one of the topics discussed
- give general legal information
Preparing for Mediation
To prepare for mediation, the couple can
- meet with a lawyer or notary individually to learn about their rights and obligations,
- gather all documents that might be useful to them or to the mediator, such as tax returns, and
- write down what they disagree on and why.
The Three Steps in the Mediation Process
The spouses are not allowed to have a lawyer with them during the mediation sessions. However, they can meet with a lawyer or notary before, during or after the mediation process to get legal advice.
Mediation usually involves three steps:
During the evaluation step, the mediator does the following:
- explains the mediation process and its role to the couple
- evaluates the situation of the couple and their children
- helps to decide which topics should be discussed
- plans the next mediation sessions
- asks the couple to sign a mediation contract, which outlines the rules for the mediation
In the sessions that follow, the mediator tries to help the couple agree on the specific points raised.
|Anything said or written down during mediation is confidential and can’t be repeated in court if mediation doesn’t work.|
3. Preparation of a Report on Points of Agreement
After the sessions are over, the mediator writes a report on all the points the couple agrees on.
is usually a list of points on which the couple agrees
is not very detailed or specific
- does not oblige the couple to follow it because it's not a contract or a court decision
The spouses should not sign the report. If they do, it could be considered a contract that they are forced to follow. It is not a good idea to sign the report because it is not written in a way that protects them or prevents misunderstandings.
This is why the mediator recommends that the spouses consult a lawyer or notary to convert the report into a draft agreement, which will later be filed in court and eventually become a decision of the court.
This article explains in a general way the law that applies in Quebec. This article is not a legal opinion or legal advice. To find out the specific rules for your situation, consult a lawyer or notary.