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Role of lawyers in family mediation

Region: Ontario Answer # 0163

The parties may attend mediation with or without their lawyers. If they are in attendance with their legal representatives, they are still the primary participants in the mediation. It is not the mediator’s role to give legal advice.

Role of lawyers in family mediation

In family law matters, even if you and your spouse decide to mediate, you should each have independent legal advice. Both parties need to know their legal rights and responsibilities, and both must understand the legal consequences of any agreement they make.

Lawyers can provide the following services:

  • give independent legal advice,
  • help prepare for the mediation process,
  • provide guidance on legal aspects of possible settlement options,
  • prepare and review any binding agreements before signing, and
  • help enforce the terms of a mediation agreement.

If you cannot afford a lawyer, there are options. Legal Aid Ontario provides family law certificates that can include mediation, and also has special limited certificates that cover the negotiation of separation agreements and mediation. Victims of domestic violence have access to legal support through the government’s Family Court Support Program, and Legal Aid provides additional resources to victims of domestic violence as well. In addition, some agencies supporting vulnerable men and women provide legal advice and support.

More lawyers are offering unbundled and flat rate fees in family law matters as well, and in the near future paralegals may be able to provide limited legal advice and support to parties negotiating settlements in mediation. For more information on mediation, refer to our Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) section.

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