Risa Ennis Family Mediation

       Does Mediation Mean You Do Not Need a Lawyer?

Mediation is what I call a “gift” that our family legal system has given family law clients as an alternative to the traditional litigation route, but not without using lawyers in this alternative mechanism.

Most lawyers will refer their clients to family mediators, especially to design parenting plans, where they see the benefits in this process for their clients.  The benefits for many clients in using mediation are a) the ability to have the joint final decisions in determining custody and access, b) lower fees than litigation costs and c) co-parenting, parenting and grief education.

My clients sign a mediation contract where they are advised that without legal consultation and witnessing of their signatures, should this draft ever be brought forward to a Court, it may not be enforceable.  Therefore, it is absolutely necessary that clients involve lawyers to complete the mediation process by reviewing, advising and finally giving the clients their professional opinions that the draft developed in mediation is legally sound.

Sometimes lawyers and clients also attend mediation sessions together.   I encourage this meeting with all professionals where there are concerns and especially if the clients would like their lawyers to attend.

Generally the clients attend on their own with the understanding that any agreements made in mediation would not be considered binding until legal opinion was sought and the agreement was signed by all, including legal counsel. 

Throughout the mediation process, I encourage the clients to consult with their lawyers for their input and this is helpful.  That way, by the time the lawyers do see the final draft, they have a good idea of how the mediation has progressed for their clients and many of their questions or concerns have been dealt with through the mediation.

Many lawyers prefer to not become involved in the mediation process unless there is a problem as they feel having an overlapping of these two processes for the clients may be unsettling or confusing for them.  I also think this is wise because the processes are very different.  Having said this, when lawyers have attended mediation with their clients and myself, I commend the lawyers for their respect for the mediation process.

Mediation is one of the alternatives offered to clients through the family law system, with the understanding that the clients return to their lawyers for final consultation and review.  Once a mediated agreement is deemed satisfactory by both lawyers, the Memorandum of Understanding developed in mediation is incorporated into the Final Separation Agreement.

Risa Ennis Family Mediation and Counselling Services
Telephone: (416) 636-2946

Email:  risasmediation@rogers.com

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Once a parenting plan is drafted (referred to as the Memorandum of Understanding),and the mediation has also helped the family adjust to their unique concerns in moving forward,  clients still must take the draft to their own individual lawyers for review and to witness their signatures.