What Is Parenting Mediation?
Parenting mediation is a structured, co-operative process whereby, with the assistance of a mediator, separating parents can negotiate their post-separation parenting arrangements by mutual agreement.
Why Attend Parenting Mediation?
Parenting is a long-term commitment that requires cooperation and communication between separated parents over a period of many years. Parents who are able to reach an agreement regarding their respective roles and responsibilities can provide a healthy family environment for their children in spite of the break-down of their own relationship. Parenting mediation provides a cooperative forum for parents to discuss a Parenting Plan that is focused on the needs of the children.
By participating in mediation parents can build skills for working together and develop methods for resolving any issues that may arise in the future.
Who are Parenting Mediators?
Parenting mediators are usually family professionals (e.g. social workers, counsellors, psychologists) who have training in family mediation. FCO Mediators specialise in mediating parenting issues, including situations involving high conflict. Clients who wish to additionally mediate their financial issues are referred to lawyer-mediators who specialize in mediating property and support issues.
For more information about family mediation see:
http://www.oafm.on.ca/ and http://www.familymediationottawa.com/
What Is The Role Of The Parenting Mediator?
The mediator’s role is to facilitate the discussions between the parents so that each parent has an opportunity to express his/her point of view. The mediator may clarify concerns and misunderstandings, help parents consider different options and give priority to the needs of the children. Parenting mediators may also provide information about children’s needs in separation.
- Mediators do not make decisions for the parents or force them to agree.
- Mediators do not provide counselling or offer legal advice.
- Mediators do not testify in court.
What Is The Role Of The Parents?
Parents are expected to put the children’s needs before their own; be open and honest about their situation; treat each other with respect and listen to what the other parent has to say; be willing to consider different options for resolving issues in the children’s best interest; and honour any agreements made.
What Happens In Parenting Mediation?
Referral: Parents are usually referred by their lawyers. Parents may also call FCO directly to request mediation. Parents may wish to inquire about the mediator’s experience and credentials, fees, availability and discuss any specific concerns.
Intake: The first meeting is with each parent individually. The purpose of the meeting is to obtain information and determine whether mediation is a suitable option. If not, the mediator may refer parents to other services. Parents also have an opportunity to bring up any questions or concerns that they may have about participating in mediation.
Sessions: The next step is joint mediation sessions. During the joint meetings parents discuss specific agreements regarding the Parenting Plan, such as: how decisions will be made for the children; when children will be with each parent; how to share holidays; the children’s schooling and activities; general principles of parenting in separation and any other issues that are important to the family.
In some cases the mediator may interview the child(ren) upon consent of the parents. The children’s interviews are conducted without the parents being present; however, the results may be shared with the parents. Children are not interviewed routinely, but may be seen if the parents and the mediator feel that there is a specific reason to do so.
Parenting Plan: If parents reach agreement, the mediator drafts a Parenting Plan based on those agreements. Copies are provided to the parents and their lawyers.
What Is The Role Of Lawyers?
The role of lawyers is to provide legal advice. Before starting mediation, and at any time throughout the mediation process, each parent should consult with his/her own lawyer, preferably a family law specialist. Parents should have their lawyers review the Parenting Plan before signing it. The Parenting Plan is usually attached to the Separation Agreement, which is drafted by lawyers.
If parents wish, they may attend the mediation sessions accompanied by their lawyers.
What does It Cost?
Mediators typically charge an hourly fee for meetings with clients. Additional costs involve the mediator’s time in communicating with the clients and/or their lawyers and drafting the Parenting Plan. Parents usually share the cost of mediation. The cost depends on the number of sessions required to reach an agreement. While every situation is unique, many parents complete their parenting plan in 3-4 meetings. High conflict mediations may take longer.
When compared to litigation, mediation is a cost-effective way to resolve parenting issues.