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Divorce mediation: what to expect

Divorce mediation is a process in which a couple meets with a third party—a trained mediator—for the purpose of negotiating and resolving their issues.


Learn more about what you can expect in mediation and how to make it as smooth and cost-effective as possible.


Choose one person to take the lead in scheduling

One or both of the parties should take the lead in scheduling the mediation. While it is open to the parties to have their lawyers deal with scheduling of the mediation, it is usually not wise—or cost effective—to add more people into the scheduling process than necessary.


It’s typically easiest if one of the parties takes the lead in communicating with our office and the other party in order to schedule the mediation. Some families find that scheduling takes a great deal of back and forth communication, and accordingly, we find that it works best if our office is not in the middle of that communication.


Once you have both agreed on available dates, then one person should be communicating with our office to schedule mediation and communicate back the results of that scheduling to the other party.


How many sessions does mediation usually take?

While every case and every family is different, our experience is that most mediations will last somewhere between four and 16 hours, and average six to 10 hours, spread out over one to four sessions.


Generally speaking, we will schedule the first mediation to last for two hours, but leave ourselves open for the possibility of continuing on to the third or fourth hour in the first session if we feel we are making progress and people’s time and energy allows.


While there is the possibility for your mediation to take longer, generally speaking, we will be able to determine whether or not it makes sense to continue the mediation somewhere around the second, third or fourth hour, and usually by the time we have spent two hours with you.


What to expect in your first mediation session

Depending on the complexity of the issues and the personalities involved, the parties can expect that the first hour or two of the mediation process may only deal with:

  • Introducing the mediation process;
  • Confirming the commitment to mediate;
  • Signing the mediation contract;
  • Providing the mediator with necessary background information so that the stage is set for the real work to begin.


Mediation costs are typically shared

The mediator expects that either the parties have agreed to share the cost of mediation on a 50-50 basis or that they have, in advance of the mediation, come to a different agreement as to how they are going to finance and pay for the mediation.


Your options include:

  • Each party being responsible for 50% of the mediation fees;
  • The parties share the cost of mediation pro rata in relation to their total incomes;
  • The parties decide to reimburse themselves the costs of the mediation out of a joint asset;
  • One of the parties fronts the total cost of the mediation and the other party’s share is taken out of the ultimate settlement;
  • One party pays the whole cost of the mediation or a substantially greater percentage of the cost of the mediation.


If the parties are expecting to ‘mediate’ how they are going to share the cost of the mediation there will have to be a commitment to pay for the time spent mediating that issue before it can proceed.


Notwithstanding how the parties agree to share the cost of mediation, the parties will be expected to pay for each session in advance or immediately following the completion of each session.


The mediator’s fees are based upon the mediator’s hourly rate, plus GST, for the time spent in preparing for, conducting and providing follow up to the mediation. The fees can be paid by Visa, MasterCard, Direct Debit, cash or cheque.


Get legal advice before going into mediation

The mediator cannot provide legal advice to either party. Sometimes, however, the mediator will provide general legal information in a neutral way to facilitate ongoing discussions.


It is recommended that both parties obtain independent legal advice before beginning the mediation with respect to their legal rights and obligations in relation to the matters in dispute and in relation to the merits of proceeding with the mediation.


Mediation sessions are confidential

  • Anything said or done or disclosed in the mediation remains confidential.
  • Neither party can use that information as evidence in any court proceedings.
  • It is also important to note that the mediator will not be a witness in any court proceedings.


Find out more about our mediation services here>>


Learn how to prepare for your mediation>>