Do you know a woman who is being abused? A legal rights handbook
Should I try mediation?
Mediation sometimes offers a solution to family disputes and can be faster and less stressful than a court hearing. A mediator does not give legal advice. They can help you and your partner talk about legal issues like custody and access, and spousal and child support. They can help you reach a solution you both like.
You do not have to use mediation. However, a judge might encourage you and your partner to try mediation if they think it might help. If this happens and you have concerns about mediation, let the judge know. Mediation is not always appropriate in domestic violence situations because:
- If you are afraid of or intimidated by your partner it can be hard to say what you want.
- You might find it difficult to talk about your experiences of violence in mediation. Or, the mediator might not understand the impact of violence on you or its impact on custody or access to children.
- Your partner might be very charming when other people are around. This might lead the mediator to think that certain arrangements, such as joint custody, are workable.
You do not have to agree to anything the mediator proposes. If you are uncomfortable with something, tell the mediator that you need time to speak to a lawyer, or to think about it.
Finding a mediator
If you decide to try mediation, make sure to find a mediator who has been trained to handle cases involving domestic violence. If you are not sure, ask the mediator about their training and experience.
Each family court location in Ontario offers subsidized mediation services. The first meeting, called an intake meeting, is always free. You can get up to 8 hours of mediation for a fee based on you and your partner's incomes. This service is available whether or not you are in court. If you are already in court, you can get up to 2 hours of mediation free of charge. See https://www.attorneygeneral.jus.gov.on.ca/english/family/service_provider_by_family_court_location.php.
In some areas, Legal Aid Ontario has a mediation service that is free if you or your partner’s income is low enough. These mediators help with issues of custody, access, parenting plans, issues around travel and vacation plans, parent communication, and child support. See www.legalaid.on.ca/en/getting/mediationservices.asp.
You can also find mediators with lower fees through JusticeNet. JusticeNet is a not-for-profit that helps people in Ontario whose income is too high to get legal aid and too low to afford standard legal fees. See www.justicenet.ca/professions.
There are several organizations that set standards for mediators in Ontario. You can find an accredited or certified mediator through:
- the Ontario Association for Family Mediation
- Family Mediation Canada
- the ADR Institute of Ontario
An accredited or certified mediator has completed special training and has professional liability insurance. This means that they have insurance in case someone sues them for not mediating properly.
Your lawyer might also recommend a mediator.