What is Mediation
In the mediation process, a separating couple works with a professional mediator to act as a neutral third party. The goal is to facilitate discussions and guide the couple towards agreements.
Sometimes it is useful to have the eyes and wisdom of an unbiased and experienced third party to suggest potential solutions. A neutral third party will find ways to open up channels of communication when communication in your relationship is challenged.
Because it is a private process, couples can reach agreements that are better adapted to their family situation than what can be achieved in court.
Mediation is not mandatory and it is safe because the process can be terminated at anytime if someone believes the process is not serving the family well.
At the conclusion of Mediation, the parties will enter into a Separation Agreement. A Separation Agreement is what parties sign when they have finished negotiating the elements of their separation.
Some mediators will only draft a “Memorandum of Understanding” and not a “Separation Agreement” at the end of Mediation. A “Memorandum of Understanding” is a brief summary of the issues that have been agreed but cannot be signed in that format and needs to be converted into a legal format called the Separation Agreement. If the mediator only prepares the Memorandum of Understanding, then the lawyers retained by the parties will have to prepare the “Separation Agreement” based on the summary prepared by the mediator.
In my mediation practice, however, I skip the preparation of a “Memorandum of Understanding” and I actually prepare the Separation Agreement. This reduces the overall cost because when I mediate, I am intimately aware of all of the nuances of the agreements and I can reflect them in the Separation Agreement. The process of converting a Memorandum of Understanding into a Separation Agreement can be costly and can prolong the process.
Some people negotiate in mediation with or without lawyers. I am open to both. But when it comes time to signing the Separation Agreement, I always encourage clients to receive independent legal advice.
Independent legal advice is when each spouse’s own lawyer meets alone with his or her client to make sure the client understands and agrees with the agreements that are reflected in the Separation Agreement.
Nathalie Boutet is an experienced mediator. If you need help with a dispute please contact Nathalie at 416-860-1942 to set up a consultation.