31 - How Lawyers Help at Family Mediation


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31 - How Lawyers Help at Family Mediation

Many separating or divorcing couples are choosing to go to family mediation, rather than family court to resolve the legal issues between them.  They do this because family mediation is usually, faster, much less expensive, less emotionally draining and results in much more tailored resolutions that family court.  Some people incorrectly believe that they can avoid seeing a lawyer by choosing mediation.  Ontario Law says that is not the case.  In addition, there are many good reasons to get help from a lawyer before, during and after mediation.  This is not just a pitch by lawyers to keep business.  To show why having getting help from a lawyer during mediation is helpful, even essential, we invited Accredited Family Mediator, Todd Slonim, to the podcast to explain.

Legal Knowledge and Clarity of Process  Lawyers provide critical information about family law concepts and how the law applies to a party’s specific circumstances. 
Assess legal issues and provide advice  
Clarify why mediation is being considered
Explain the purpose of mediation, what it is, what is to be accomplished and what cannot be done at mediation


Provide insight about mediators’ approaches to the mediation process 
Explore issues of vulnerability prior to the process 
Review and explain the mediation Agreement
Is Your Position Reasonable? Understand acceptable ranges of settlement - help advance positions that are within a reasonable range  
Understand emotional dynamics – avoid positions that are clouded by emotion
Avoid unreasonable positions that can affect a party’s credibility
Family law lawyers provide perspective on potential outcomes, what clients are getting and giving up 
A party needs to understand possible outcomes, advantages and disadvantages of settlement positions 
Manage a party’s (unrealistic) expectations
Is the deal a benefit or a burden – will it last?
Paperwork is crucial and must be completed correctly
Productive, informed and meaningful mediation is impaired by lack of preparation and disclosure   
Mediation briefs that clearly explain the issues and positions are effective tools to advance a framework for settlement  
Financial mediations require the proper financial disclosure. For instance: 
Sworn family law Financial Statements  with supporting disclosure 
Net Family Property (NFP) Statements
Support calculations (child and spousal support)
Personal and, if applicable, corporate tax returns 
Business or Corporate financial statement
Valuations and appraisals, where necessary

Mr. Slonim, who is a professional and accredited family mediator conducts mediations both at the Toronto Family Court Mediation Service and privately, explains how parties who have assistance of lawyers find that the mediation goes more smoothly, has better and more creative resolution, and results in a more lasting agreement.    When the parties get help from good family lawyers, they get better results more quickly and at lower cost.  Mr. Slonim explains why that is the case and some of the problems that arise when parties do not have lawyers assist them with preparing for mediation and understanding the mediation process.  From the perspective of a family mediator, Mr. Slonim describes how the involvement of family lawyers, early on, significantly helps the mediation process and leads to better results for the separating or divorcing couples.  Especially in mediations over financial matters, one or both parties not having a lawyer can actually impede the mediation process.  But, in every mediation, lawyers facilitate and expedite the process by ensuring the parties stay focussed on reasonable outcomes. 


To assist with understanding the content of this podcast, Mr. Slonim, prepared slides that highlight the points he makes.  Those slides show up on your screen on the iTunes version of the podcast.  They are also shown to the left on this page if you are listening to the podcast on your desktop.  If you are listening to this podcast throught the website on your mobile device, look for the slides below.


Mediation is an excellent process. But it can lead to poor results when the parties do not know what they are doing.  Listen to this edition of the podcast to hear why seeing a family lawyer is essential for getting the best possible results from the family mediation process.

Family law lawyers provide options that you may not have considered
Lawyer have experience and understand the variability of the application of the law in cases
Provide different approaches to resolution of matters  
Help design unusual resolutions that will be respected and enforced [by the courts]
Family law lawyers help settle cases
Expertise in negotiations – necessary skill when advancing settlement options 
Advance strategies to assist the resolution of issues 
Understand the realties of the cost of the process


The host of the Ontario Family Law PodcastJohn Schuman, is a Certified Specialist in Family Law and Divorce Trial Lawyer, mediator, arbitrator and collaborative lawyer, practicing in Toronto at Devry Smith Frank LLP, which is a full service law firm with several excellent lawyers in family law.  If you would like to contact John Schuman, either call 416-446-5847, email him or fill out form below and click “send.”  We respond promptly whenever someone contacts us.  

Lawyers can be used throughout the mediation process
Provide independent legal advice (ILA) – Each party must retain a lawyer – parties benefit from solicitor-client privilege 
Prepare enforceable Agreement – avoid ongoing conflict and fighting over same issues – Help expand the Memorandum of Understanding into a comprehensive and reliable agreement 
Explain Agreement – ensure that the party understands terms  - little weight given to Agreements without ILA
Provide guidance and assistance prior and during the mediation to promote negotiations that are free from coercion, undue influence and other problems

Thousands of people tune into the  Ontario Family Law Podcast every month to get valuable pointers on family law, divorce and separation issues that can save them thousands of dollars.  It is also available on iTunes.  The Ontario Family Law Podcast is a companion to this easy-to-understand book on the Basics of Ontario Family Law, which is also available for immediate download as a $9.99 ebook from Amazon (Canada) and Kobo or as and iBook for iPad, iPhone or Mac.  For a more comprehensive explanation of family law issues, a guide to Ontario’s Family Courts and all the alternatives to court such as mediation, arbitration and collaborative practice, download a copy, order a paper copy from Amazon, or request it at your favourite bookstore or library.


If you would like to comment on this edition of the podcast, please use the form below.  Your comments may help others in difficult family law, divorce or estates and succession situations.   You can also use the form below to suggest topics for future editions of the Ontario Family Law Podcast.  Please feel free to share this podcast with your social network using the sharing buttons below. 


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