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
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
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 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
Risa Ennis Family Mediation and Counselling Services
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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