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Separation and divorce

How family mediation works

You’ve chosen to settle the various aspects of your breakup with the help of a family mediator? What’s the role of the mediator? What topics are usually discussed? How many sessions are needed? Here’s what you need to know about how family mediation works.

Generally, three people are present at family mediation sessions: the two people who are separating and the mediator.

La place de l'enfant en médiation familiale (French only)
Source : Association des médiateurs familiaux du Québec

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

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

If you and your ex are unable to reach an agreement following the family mediation process, all discussions and all documents exchanged or written during mediation will remain confidential. This means that whatever happened during the sessions can’t be used later in court, unless all the participants agree.

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 family 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.

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.

Unlike a judge, the mediator 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 family 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.

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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