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Separation and divorce

How family mediation works

You’ve chosen to settle the various aspects of your break-up with the help of a family mediator? Here’s a step-by-step look at what you need to know about the sessions and the process of mediation.

Who is present?

Generally, three people are present at family mediation sessions: the two people who are separating and the mediator. Children may also participate sometimes.

If you feel the need to bring a professional or someone close to you for moral support, you may do so as long as your ex and the mediator agree.

(French only)

The place of the child in family mediation

What is discussed?

Mediation sessions are generally used to help parties find common ground on the following topics:

  • The division of money and property
  • Spousal support (for married couples).

For couples with children, other issues may be added, for example:

  • Choice of parenting schedule regarding custody
  • Child support
  • Choice of school where there is a move
  • Decisions concerning medical treatments.

Everything that takes place during the mediation process is confidential. This means that whatever is discussed during the sessions can’t be used later in court, unless all the participants agree.

How many sessions will you need?

The number of sessions needed depends on your personal situation, how many issues have to be resolved, or the approach taken by your mediator. For example, in Quebec, in 2016, couples with children needed an average of 5 hours and 6 minutes of mediation to settle the various aspects of their separation.

Did you know?

In Quebec, couples who are separating have access to a program from the Ministère de la Justice du Québec that offers them:

  • 5 hours of family mediation if they have children
  • 3 hours of family mediation if they don't have children.

The duration of the sessions also varies from one mediator to another. Some mediators propose one-hour sessions, whereas others might prefer them to be longer or shorter. Please confirm with your mediator.

What is the role of the mediator?

The mediator leads the discussions during the sessions. He or she is there to guide the negotiations and help you reach an agreement that suits everyone. However, the mediator can’t force you to reach an agreement.

The mediator is not a judge, and he or she can’t make any decisions for you. The mediator also can’t take sides or give you legal advice. If you need legal advice, you can consult a lawyer or a notary outside the sessions.

The mediator also ensures that discussions are respectful, that they take place in a safe environment, and that everyone has a clear understanding of the decisions made.

Finally, if the mediator believes that it is necessary, he or she may put an end to the mediation process or postpone a session at any time. This can happen, for example, if one if the parties is trying to undermine the process or is in great psychological distress.


  1. Presentation of the mediation process and assessment of needs

    The mediator usually begins the first session by presenting how the mediation process works. The mediator may also provide you with a list of documents that you will need to bring with you to the following sessions (pay stubs, income tax returns, marriage contract, cohabitation agreement, etc.).

    You and your ex will then be given the opportunity to freely express your concerns and expectations. From these initial discussions, the mediator will be able to assess your needs and determine the questions likely to come up along with possible sources of conflict that will have to be resolved in subsequent meetings. If you have questions about the process, feel free to ask your mediator.

  2. Finding solutions

    During the sessions, you and the mediator will discuss the various topics that need to be addressed. The mediator will write down the decisions that you and your ex will make together.

    The goal is to ensure that, by the end of the mediation process, you and your ex have reached an agreement that suits everyone and that is not against the law. Therefore, during the mediation process, if you feel the need to take some time to think about certain issues or if you want to consult a legal professional for some advice, let your mediator know.

  3. Summary of Agreements

    The mediator ends the mediation process by providing a short list, in writing, of all the points on which you and your ex have reached an agreement. This document is called a “Summary of Agreements”. Read it carefully to ensure that its content is accurate and reflects what was discussed.

    The Summary of Agreements will serve as very useful reminder in the upcoming months of all the agreements reached during the mediation process.

    However, this document isn’t a judgment. You therefore can’t force your ex to comply with your agreement by relying on this document alone.

    Furthermore, if you’re married, please note that the Summary of Agreements doesn’t make your divorce official. To make your divorce official, you need to convert the Summary of Agreement into what is called a “Draft Agreement” and present it in court.

(French only)

Do we still need to go before a judge?


The information presented on this page is not a legal opinion or legal advice. This page explains in a general way the law that applies in Quebec. To obtain a legal opinion or legal advice on your personal situation, consult a legal professional.

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