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Mandatory Mediation, Family Law Mediation, and the Benefits of Mediation

Mediation for non-family civil cases has long been mandatory and legal mediation services are much sought after to settle disputes.

The Ontario Mandatory Mediation Program piloted in Toronto and Ottawa in January, 1999. When the pilot program period ended in March 2001, the outcomes were extremely positive. As a result, mandatory mediation expanded to Windsor in December 2002 and later all of Essex County, under Rule 24.1 of the Ontario Rules of Civil Procedure.

What are the Benefits of Legal Mediation Services?

Legal mediation services provide an information and confidential method for dispute resolution without going to court. The initial pilot program for mandatory mediation showed that mediation resulted in:

  • reduced time to resolve cases;
  • decreased costs;
  • general satisfaction on the part of litigants and lawyers.

(Source Ontario Bar Association: Mandatory Mediation In Ontario: Taking Stock After 20 Years).

Mandatory Mediation for Estates and Trust Disputes

Under Rule 75.1 mandatory mediation expanded to estate and trust disputes. Like other civil cases, legal mediation services in these matters freed up the backlog in court time, and provided quicker case resolution.

Most recently, in September 2021, the government revoked the requirement to meet in person for estate and trust disputes, primarily due to concerns regarding Covid-19. Mediators and affected parties can now agree to meet online.

Family Law Mediation

It comes as no surprise, then, that legal mediation services provide benefits for family dispute resolution. Family law mediation is being encouraged by the Ontario government to help resolve cases without going to court. Increasingly, families are choosing couples mediation as a faster and less adversarial method to build an agreement.

In several recent cases, courts have ordered parties to attend mediation.   While mediation is a voluntary process, it is clear judges are increasingly doing what they can to encourage mediation where the issue does not require immediate court intervention.

Mediation is not the only path for family dispute resolution. For an overview of your options, read our blog: Separation and Family Dispute Resolution – What are your Options?

Choosing a Mediator

The role of the mediator is not to take sides or make a decision. Rather, a mediator guides the parties to help reach an agreement.

Both qualified lawyers and trained non-lawyers can mediate disputes. Individuals who provide legal mediation services for family law matters in Ontario need accreditation with either the Ontario Association of Family Law or  Family Dispute Resolution Institute of Ontario (FDRIO).

Must qualify with:

  • Family mediation training and intimate partner violence education or training.
  • Demonstrated expertise in family law or family dispute resolution such as a practicing family lawyer.
  • A critical factor is to choose a mediator that is professional and makes all parties comfortable. And even if you choose mediation, you may wish to speak to your lawyer before seeing a mediator to ensure you understand the law, and your rights and obligations

Open or Closed Mediation?

Another choice you need to make is whether your mediation sessions will be open or closed. The default is closed mediation.

  • Closed mediation – the discussions during mediation sessions remain confidential should the dispute need to proceed in court. The mediator cannot testify in any ensuing legal proceedings and mediation discussions cannot be raised in court.
  • Open mediation – open mediation is where mediation discussions can be disclosed in court. This option is rare and some mediators choose not to conduct open mediation.

Regardless of your choice, documents pertaining to your case are not confidential. They can be raised in court should the need arise. The exception to this is any settlement offers that were introduced during the couple’s mediation sessions.

If you are looking for legal mediation services for family dispute resolution, contact the Kelly D. Jordan Family Law Firm.  Get started by completing our online referral form to help us gather information about your needs. The Family Law page on our website has a variety of tools and resources to help you get started.

Resources:

Canadian Forum on Civil Justice – Ontario Mandatory Mediation Program (Rules 24.1 and 75.1)

Government of Ontario – Family Mediation