The numbers and testimonials show that free onsite family mediation and information, and subsidized comprehensive family mediation, provide real value to clients and taxpayers.
mediate393’s roster of some 25 family dispute resolution professionals—either experienced family lawyers or mental health professionals— have provided free onsite information services and family mediation, and subsidized comprehensive mediation, at Toronto’s Superior Court of Justice since mid 2011. Since fall 2013, we have provided family information services and subsidized comprehensive mediation at the Ontario Court of Justice at 47 Sheppard Ave. and 311 Jarvis St.
The issues we mediate the most are custody (decision-making for children– 20%); access (time sharing for children– 29%); and child support (21%), with spousal support and property division matters representing 14% of issues mediated.
Onsite mediation is available at no cost every day in the Superior Court for motions, trials, case conferences and Dispute Resolution Officer meetings. Mediators spend two-three hours with parties who want to resolve issues or simply to better define and narrow their disputes.
Most clients who try onsite mediation settle their disputes in whole or in part. In 2013, 71% of onsite mediations resulted in partial or full agreement. The volume of onsite mediations has been steadily building as the service becomes better known. Clients are referred by lawyers, judges, court staff or the parties themselves. Our mediators work closely with other service providers in the court, including the Family Court Support Workers, court staff and the Information and Referral Coordinator in the Family Law Information Centre (FLIC) on the 9th floor. When not mediating, they are busy assisting clients in the FLIC with family law matters and process options. Many cases that are referred to onsite mediation are too complex for this service and are sent to the more comprehensive subsidized service, which operates out of the same building.
Subsidized mediation is available to anyone in the GTA who is separating. They need not be in court. We provide free intake meetings for each client and then 6-8 hours of comprehensive mediation at rates that are highly subsidized, based on income and number of dependents. In 2013, 59% of all subsidized mediations settled in whole or in part. We opened an average of 16 new comprehensive mediation files each month, with an average of 68 hours of subsidized mediation provided monthly.
Our clients are overwhelmingly happy with the quality and accessibility of the services provided. Client surveys for 2014 thus far (January-May) show an average client satisfaction rate of 90%. Over half our 2014 clients (53%) give us a perfect score! Our 2013 results were similar.
The reason for such strong levels of client satisfaction? The high settlement rates contribute to client satisfaction. But the satisfaction data also reflects satisfaction with the way clients are treated, the fairness of the process, the voice they and their children were able to have, and the insight they gained from the experience. Even those who did not reach agreement were very satisfied with the process. And we know from experience that successful mediations often settle soon afterward if they did not settle in the mediation itself.
Our Information and Referral Coordinators (IRCs) are a significant presence in all three courts. They work each day with court staff, other service providers and community resources to help guide people who are separating through the court process or towards community and government resources for help. The IRCs help hundreds of clients every day.
Ours is still a very new service. We are developing partnerships with lawyers, community services, court partners, duty and legal aid counsel, Dispute Resolution Officers, Family Court Support Workers, the bench and others to provide useful and relevant court-connected services. We have more work to do to enhance awareness of the extensive services we offer and their utility. We are always seeking referrals. Our website has subsidized rates, the profiles of many of our IRCs and mediators, news and more – please check it out!
Our clients say:
“This is a wonderful service to humanity, designed to reduce or eliminate unnecessary and abhorrent strife, contention, and conflict permeating the legal system.” – January 2014 onsite client
“I am thrilled with this service and very grateful for [the mediator]’s expertise and experience. She has resolved the 10 year divorce in one session!” – March 2014 onsite client
“I felt respected and assisted. The mediator listened and fully understood my concerns and the situation. I’m very happy I decided to use mediation.” – March 2014 onsite client