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Family Mediation, Divorce Mediation in Toronto and Across GTA

Family mediation is a private and confidential way to settle your family law matters out of court. Family mediation is sometimes called Family Dispute Resolution (FDR), and is part of the broader disciples of Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR), a well known legal remedy for disputes in Corporate Commercial law. In family mediation, former spouses and partners work with a professional family law mediator to maximize their resources for the benefit of their family. The family mediators at Riverdale Mediation help you do this through negotiation, plus other skills and techniques they are specially trained for. We have helped hundreds of couples separate amicably since 2001 using family mediation.

What is Family Mediation?

A good definition of family mediation is:

A process for settling out of court disputes between former spouses or partners with the help of someone who is skilled, experienced and neutral by having a conversation—either together or in separate rooms— in a way that is safe for everyone (legally, emotionally and physically) so that they can jointly reach an agreement on how to move forward in the future.

Family Mediation Can Help Settle:

  • child custody
  • child access
  • parenting plans
  • child support
  • spousal support
  • division of property
  • and other issues too, like how to communicate better as parents, finding helpful counselling or other family services, and how to resolve future disagreements.

These are all the issues that will need to be settled between married spouses or common-law partners and will need to be written down in a separation agreement. Family mediation clients are almost universally satisfied with the process because it is respectful and productive, focused on the future and on their children. Read our Google Reviews. Our family mediators and arbitrators, Hilary Linton and Elizabeth Hyde, each have decades of experience helping separating and divorcing couples go their separate ways, amicably and still be able to co-parent their children effectively.

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Before we meet

Review the "Getting Started" guide

FAQ

Why choose family mediation?

Ending an intimate relationship is an overwhelming experience. It is complicated—emotionally, financially, legally and procedurally. Many people do not know where to begin. Few want to hire lawyers for a battle, but no one wants to feel vulnerable and taken advantage of. Most people just want a fair settlement that gets them and their children what they need.

Today’s separating spouses have many options, including mediation, litigation, collaborative practice, arbitration, negotiating with legal professionals, or doing it themselves. It is important to have an intake meeting with a mediator, before you choose mediation, to decide whether the process is the right one for you. Some people will retain a lawyer to help them in the mediation while others feel comfortable mediating on their own.

Whichever way it is done, mediation should be a fair, safe, balanced, informed and affordable way to resolve difficult problems. Our team of lawyer and social worker mediators is ready to help lawyers and their clients settle the toughest cases in the best possible way.

What are the benefits of mediation?

Mediation empowers the parties to resolve all aspects of their dispute in a way that is best for them. Mediation respects the needs of each person involved including extended family members. Family mediation allows parents to stay focused on the needs of their children. Mediation is less adversarial, less stressful and less expensive than going to court. Research shows that people who use mediation are usually more satisfied with both the process and the outcome than people who use the courts to resolve their disputes.

How does the mediation process start?

Please complete a Confidential Intake Form and have your partner do the same. This will help us prepare for your individual, confidential intake meeting, which you will schedule with our staff. At this meeting we will ask you questions and you can ask us questions to help us decide whether mediation is the right process choice for your family. Mediation is not always the best process for everyone. We will want to know if you are both ready to mediate, if you have the information you need, if the process will be legally, emotionally and physically safe, and if there are any steps that need to be taken before you can start.

After the intake meetings, what happens in mediation?

You will both need to sign our Agreement to Mediate. Please review it carefully before you come in for your intake meeting in case you have questions. We will usually have an intern present as ours is a teaching practice. We will then conduct one or more sessions with you, either together or in separate rooms, to help you negotiate a settlement of the issues that are important to both of you and your children.

What does a mediator do?

A mediator is a referee, a knowledgeable guide, a source of legal information ( but not legal advice), an impartial and realistic “sounding board”, and an expert in helping people in distress communicate better.

A mediator provides a fair and safe process for people to assess their needs, stay focused, communicate effectively, and find a satisfactory outcome. Mediators are neutral towards all parties but directive when it comes to providing a fair and balanced process.

A mediator will help parties work through proposed solutions to ensure they are realistic and workable. Although a mediator will provide legal information, they cannot give legal advice.

What documents do I need to bring to the mediation?

If there are any financial issues, we will ask both of you to complete and swear a Form 13.1 Financial Statement. (link) You should bring any other documents that you or the other person will need in order to have an informed negotiation.

How do I prepare for mediation?

We have articles in our Resources section to help you prepare for your mediation. Mediation is a negotiation; you should come ready to negotiate. This means spending the time you need before the mediation to understand the strengths and weaknesses of your legal arguments; the practicality of any proposed solutions you have; and the range of settlement options you could accept. We always recommend that you consult with a family lawyer and any other professionals whose advice you need. In complex cases we may recommend that these professionals attend the mediation for multi- disciplinary support and advice.

How many meetings are there, generally?

It depends on the complexity of the case and the personalities of the people in the room. How well prepared each of you is, and how ready you are to settle the case, will impact the process. We find that most mediations are completed in under 12 hours of meeting time.

Will the mediator create a Separation Agreement?

Our mediators will draft agreements and parenting plans for you, provided that you will be taking them to a lawyer for legal advice. Otherwise, we will provide you with a Memorandum of Understanding of the issues that were resolved.

What does family mediation cost?

The mediators who work with Riverdale charge a range of hourly rates, which is usually shared by the parties as they may agree. We DO NOT REQUIRE RETAINERS, but rather ask that you pay what is owing at the end of each session.

Do I need a lawyer?

We recommend that everyone in mediation has access to good legal and other professional advice. You will need to decide what advice you need; we can help you make that assessment but cannot provide advice ourselves.

Testimonials

I just wanted to take the opportunity to thank-you for your help and guidance yesterday. You were a very calming presence in the room, in a situation that could have been even more heated than it was at times.

It was a pleasure to have Hilary facilitate a mediation between my ex and myself. I was made to feel comfortable throughout the process. Hilary made sure I understood everything throughout the mediation. I had the opportunity to meet separately with my lawyer or advisor as well as Hilary and her intern and associates all of whom were very capable and knowledgeable. Hilary’s intern eloquently confirmed that it was indeed a successful mediation as each of us left unhappy but relieved that it was over without the tremendous expense of an extensive and expensive trial and continued stress. I felt supported by Hilary throughout and am so grateful for having gone through the mediation process with her and her team.

I wanted to let you know that we have finalized our separation. I have learned much from this experience — the most valuable lesson is: get to know who is the true person you are negotiating with, and then determine the negotiating strategy. Your advice was right on — figure out what is it that I need. Thanks again for your help and all the best to you. I will definitely call on you should we need to go through dispute resolution again.

I really appreciated what you have crafted and the clarity and detail of the draft agreement is reassuring and comforting to me. Thank you.

Thank-you once again for your work and for making calmer heads prevail.

You should know that today you engineered the most civil conversation my ex and I have had in several years.

Read More Testimonials

More About Mediation

Riverdale has numerous articles on mediation. Start with one of the ones below, or browse all articles about mediation.

September 15, 2017

Safety Planning in Family Law Cases: An Emerging Duty of Care for Lawyers?

By Hilary Linton Research and experience tells us that intimate partner homicides are the most predictable and preventable of murders. We also know that adversarial…

September 14, 2017

Best Practices for Screening for Family Violence and Power Imbalances in Family Mediation-Arbitration

By Hilary Linton 1. Screening is a process of identifying, assessing and managing power imbalances. Its purpose is to assess if parties are appropriate for…

September 14, 2017

Identifying and Assessing Family Violence and Power Dynamics

By Hilary Linton What are the fundamental principles of ADR? What are some basic screening concepts I should know before starting mediation and/or arbitration? What are mediators…