The Family Law Mediation program is a voluntary free service (up to 9 hours). It can help parents, guardians and other people who have an interest in a child’s life deal with concerns related to separation or divorce. Issues can be resolved outside of court while considering the best interests of the children. Mediation can also be helpful when arrangements you’ve previously made need to change, particularly as your children grow up.
Mediators can help you talk about legal issues and disputes such as:
- custody and access
- child support
- spousal support
- parenting plans
- minor division of assets and debts
Mediators do not take sides or make decisions and they cannot provide legal advice. Their role is to listen and help you to agree on issues. They ensure that discussions stay on topic and that everyone is polite. They will help you talk about your needs and issues and to explore options so you can make decisions and reach your own agreements. Mediation is not marriage counselling.
- Once approved for the program, the first step is pre-mediation. Each person is allowed 1 hour of private one-on-one time with a mediator to talk about their personal circumstances. (You may also be asked to fill out forms before this meeting.) The mediator will talk to you to better understand your case and to make sure that mediation is right for you.
- If you still want to proceed, you will be asked to sign an Agreement to Mediate which sets out basic rules and expectations for mediation.
- After both parties have signed the Agreement to Mediate, the mediator will book sessions.
- With the help of the mediator, parties will identify their needs and interests. You will then consider and develop options that may be acceptable to you and the other party.
- If you resolve anything during mediation, the mediator will create a Memorandum of Understanding. This document is not legally binding, but it can be used to create a consent court order, or parties may take this document to their lawyers to include in a separation agreement.
A number of qualified mediators provide this service under contract with the Department of Justice. You cannot select a mediator; one will be assigned to you. Services may be delivered in person, by phone or via web depending on the situation and the communities where the clients live.
► Many people find it helpful to attend the free workshop Parenting After Separation before mediation starts.
Not all situations are appropriate for mediation. To find out if this program is right for you, please call 1-866-217-8923 or in Yellowknife 873-7122. All calls are confidential.
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Representing yourself in court
The Canadian Judicial Council has created a Family Law Handbook that contains a wealth of information on family law in Canada. The information is provided in an easy to understand format, with various worksheets, useful tips, explanations of legal terms and concrete examples to guide litigants throughout the legal process. To access the handbook, follow this link.