We've agreed on everything. Do we really need a written agreement?
Yes, you need a written agreement for family law issues in order for the agreement to be valid and enforceable. A verbal agreement in family law is not legally binding, regardless of whether you are at the cohabitation or separation stage of your relationship.
Our situation is very simple. Can we write our own agreement and have a Notary Public witness it?
It is not a good idea to write your own Cohabitation Agreement, Marriage Agreement, or Separation Agreement, or to use a generic kit to prepare an agreement as chances are high that you may leave out an important detail or you may use words that have a different legal meaning than what you understand. If you sign a Cohabitation Agreement, Marriage Agreement or Separation Agreement that turns out to be problematic, it can be very expensive and sometimes impossible to correct the issue so it is always advisable to have a family law agreement properly drafted by a family law professional.
Also, a Notary Public is not allowed to witness family law agreements.
I've heard mediation is the most cost-effective way of handling separation. Is that true?
Yes! Family law mediation allows you to share the cost of one professional rather than each hiring your own lawyers. The process is cooperative and therefore generally proceeds much faster than the traditional adversarial legal process which also keeps the cost down. I provide my clients with the peace of mind of a unique flat fee package so that they know exactly what cost they are incurring from the beginning.
How long is the family mediation process?
This will depend on the complexity of your circumstances and how far along you are in your discussions.
If you have discussed and agreed upon most issues, you may only need one joint meeting. If you find that you need additional information, such as tax advice from an accountant or a house appraisal, you may need additional meetings.
Most couples who work with me on a Cohabitation Agreement or Marriage Agreement are able to reach the terms of agreement within 1 - 2 joint meetings.
Most couples who work with me on a Separation Agreement are able to reach the terms of agreement within 2 - 3 joint meetings.
Do we all have to be in the same location for this to work?
No, we don't - that is the beauty of online mediation. I am based in Vernon, BC and I work with family law clients across Canada and parts of the United States by either teleconference, video chat, or a combination.
As long as you have either a phone connection or an internet connection, I can work with you without anyone incurring the time and cost of travel:
you and your partner and I can be in three different geographic locations; or
you and your partner can be in the same location and I can be in a different location.
Am I committed to the mediation process if I attend the Initial Consultation?
No, not at all.
The purpose of the Initial Consultation for Family Law Mediation is for you to get to know me, to understand the mediation process, and to confidentially provide me any information that you feel will help me successfully guide the family mediation process for you. It is key for you to feel comfortable with the person who will be facilitating discussions about issues that are very personal and important to you.
The Initial Consultation is also an opportunity for me to ensure that the mediation will be a safe and appropriate process for your family situation before you get started.
How can I know if mediation is right for us?
What happens if I'm not comfortable?
We can meet daytime or evening, by phone or video chat. We can also work out details and exchange documents by email. We'll take breaks as you need. We can have frequent short meetings or less frequent longer meetings depending on your preference.
I encourage you to let me know what will help you through the process.
The process is completely voluntary so if you decide at any time that you don't wish to continue, you may end the mediation.
Do we have to be "on friendly terms" for mediation to work?
No, you don't have to be "friendly" or feel "amicable". You do have to be willing to have a conversation, guided by the mediator, about the issues that need to be resolved. Success is dependent on your mutual willingness to engage in the family mediation process.
How can I start getting organized?
You can start gathering your financial information. You don't need to have all of the documents ready before starting family mediation but it can save you some time during the process if you are fairly organized. I've prepared a Checklist to help you get organized.