Family mediation is aimed at all couples, with or without children, who wish to end their marriage. It allows them to negotiate their own agreement rather than having a court decision imposed on them.
On average, thousands of couples use the family mediation service each year to resolve their disputes after separation. The most common reasons for using the family mediation service are: avoidance of conflict (23%), avoidance of court costs (22%) and child welfare (17%).
Over 80% of couples with children who have used this service managed to reach an agreement.
With the help of a professional mediator, ex-spouses appreciate the opportunity to negotiate all the terms of their separation in an atmosphere of mutual respect and cooperation. The mediator intervenes to help them negotiate a fair and just settlement.
Whether partial or total, the agreement will have to be accepted by both ex-spouses or it will never be concluded. It is only after the approval of the two ex-spouses that the agreement will be written by the mediator in a clear and understandable language.
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It is strongly recommended that the agreement be subsequently ratified by a court so that it is formalized between the parties. To do so, a lawyer (or the lawyer-mediator, if applicable) will have to draft procedures and an agreement to be filed with the court.
If the agreement is only partial, former spouses will have to use the courts for matters not covered and settled with the mediator.
In some cases, the ex-spouses will not reach an agreement, and it is then concluded that mediation has failed. Each of the spouses will be able, at any time, to hire their own lawyer to take the traditional route, that is taking the matter to the courts.
One of the strengths of this process is confidentiality, consequently, the mediator will never be able to testify before a court of law for either of the former spouses. Moreover, anything that has been said, admitted or even conceded during mediation sessions can never be used in court.
In Quebec, for those who have tried it, and there are many, family mediation has proven its worth, provided that the couple negotiates in good faith, show openness and compromise in the general interest of the children.