Off-Site Mediation Services
Off-site mediation is available to parties where at least one participant resides in one of the court regions served by The Mediation Centre (London, Chatham, Owen Sound, Sarnia, Stratford, Goderich, Woodstock, Walkerton and St. Thomas areas).
Off-site mediation is carried out in the “off-site” private offices of private practitioner mediators who are on the roster for The Mediation Centre. We have a wide range of mediators with backgrounds in law, social work, business and education, and can offer mediation in English and French. All of our mediators have been approved by the Ministry of the Attorney General of the Province of Ontario as being qualified to provide the highest quality of services, and are either accredited by the Ontario Association of Family Mediation, certified by Family Mediation Canada or chartered by the ADR Institute of Ontario.
All family law issues can be negotiated in off-site mediation—parenting plans, child support, spousal support and property issues. This is known as “comprehensive” mediation.
To begin the process, mutual consent must be given by each party in order to proceed. Once consent is given, a file will be opened and couriered to one of our roster mediators. The Mediation Centre will make every effort to take the parties’ schedules and means of transportation into consideration when assigning their file to a mediator.
Each party will have an opportunity to meet with the mediator separately first to discuss the issues for mediation and ask any questions or canvas any concerns. This is called an intake. Parties are “screened” at the intake session by the mediator, to ensure that all parties feel safe, and are of equal bargaining power. That is, the mediator will determine if any power imbalances exist, and if there are, take corrective measures to “level the playing field” or if no remedies exist, to make the determination that mediation is not appropriate. Domestic violence is one of the more prevalent forms of power imbalance which may factor into the mediator’s decision.
Once both parties have met with the mediator for an intake, they will come together for a joint session with the mediator. At this first joint session, a contract for mediation is signed, which outlines how the mediation is to proceed.
There are two types of off-site mediation: closed and open, which have an effect on confidentiality of the mediation.
Confidentiality is of the utmost importance in the mediation process whether it is with respect to the party’s personal contact information or what is said in the mediation sessions.
Open mediation means that the mediator will prepare a mediation summary report which outlines the outstanding issues and provides a brief summary of each party’s position on such issues. Such report shall not make recommendations on how the issues should be resolved or provide any detailed information about the communications that occurred during the mediation.
Closed mediation means that whatever is said and whatever offers are made in the mediation sessions cannot be disclosed in court or arbitration proceedings if negotiations fail, nor can a mediator be summonsed to court to talk about the process or what happened.
The mediator will clarify whether the parties are looking for closed or open off-site mediation during the intake. The mediator will continue to meet with clients for joint sessions until a full agreement is reached, or until mediation is no longer productive. It generally takes (on average) 6 hours to complete an off-site mediation to conclusion, which includes both intake sessions. Sometimes parties reach a full agreement, and sometimes only a partial agreement is reached whereby the issues are narrowed for their next step of dispute resolution. At the conclusion of mediation, the mediator writes a “mediation report” which contains all the points of agreement from the mediation and is not signed by the parties. Options for what to do with the report are discussed with the parties—some of these options include having the mediation report made into a court order or separation agreement.