The 10 Big Mistakes to Avoid in Family Law Mediation

Law Mediation

By Cheryl Goldhart
Founder and Principal of Goldhart Law and Goldhart Mediation & Arbitration.

It’s a Journey

Navigating the complexities of family law mediation can feel like walking through a maze. It’s a journey filled with emotions, decisions, and sometimes misunderstandings. We understand how challenging this can be, and that’s why we’re here to guide you. This blog post will illuminate the ten significant mistakes you should avoid during family law mediation, helping you to move forward with confidence and clarity. We’ll delve into each mistake, explain its implications, and provide practical tips to help you avoid them.

Family Law Mediation is a Process

Family law mediation is a voluntary process where you, the other party, and a neutral mediator work together to resolve disputes. It’s a space that encourages open communication and compromise. The beauty of mediation lies in its potential to foster understanding, save time and money, and preserve relationships. But to fully reap these benefits, it’s important to sidestep certain common mistakes. Before we dive into these mistakes, let’s take a moment to understand the mediation process and its importance in resolving family law disputes.

Mistake 1: Not Knowing When to Mediate

Timing, they say, is everything, and this couldn’t be truer for mediation. Initiating mediation too early might leave you feeling unprepared, while waiting too long could escalate tensions. It’s essential to recognize the right time to mediate, a time when both parties are ready to discuss and negotiate. Remember, mediation is not about winning or losing; it’s about finding a solution that respects everyone’s interests. So, how do you determine the right time to mediate? It’s about understanding your readiness, the other party’s readiness, and the state of your relationship. It’s also about seeking professional advice to guide your decision.

Mistake 2: Starting with a Non-negotiable Position

Entering mediation with a rigid stance can be like trying to navigate a river with an anchor down—it just doesn’t work. Mediation thrives on flexibility and the willingness to understand the other party’s perspective. So, keep an open mind, listen actively, and be prepared to adjust your position if needed. But what does this look like in practice? It’s about setting aside your ego, understanding the other party’s needs, and finding a middle ground. It’s about compromise, not surrender.

Mistake 3: Failure to Listen Carefully

Listening is an art, and in mediation, it’s your most powerful tool. Active listening goes beyond hearing words; it’s about understanding emotions, recognizing concerns, and showing empathy. By failing to listen carefully, you might miss crucial information that could lead to a resolution. So, during your mediation sessions, listen more, talk less. But active listening isn’t just about being quiet; it’s about showing that you understand. It’s about paraphrasing, asking clarifying questions, and providing feedback. It’s about creating a safe space for open communication.

Mistake 4: Not Sending Mediation Brief

A mediation brief is your roadmap—it outlines your concerns, your desired outcomes, and the facts supporting your position. Failing to send a mediation brief can leave you directionless and hinder the mediator’s ability to guide the process effectively. So, take the time to prepare a comprehensive mediation brief—it’s your compass in the mediation journey. But what should you include in your mediation brief? It’s about outlining your issues, your desired outcomes, and the facts supporting your position. It’s about providing a clear and concise overview of your case to guide the mediation process.

Mistake 5: Not Doing Your Homework

Preparation is key in mediation. This involves understanding your legal rights, knowing your financial situation, and being clear about your needs and wants. Walking into a mediation session unprepared is like setting off on a journey without a destination. So, do your homework, and arm yourself with knowledge—it’s your best ally. This includes understanding the legal aspects of your case, gathering all necessary documents, and being clear about your needs and wants. It also involves understanding the other party’s position and preparing for possible counterarguments.

Mistake 6: Failure to Prepare Your Client for Mediation (for lawyers)

For lawyers, preparing your client for mediation is crucial. This includes setting realistic expectations, explaining the process, and discussing potential outcomes. An unprepared client can feel lost and overwhelmed, which can hinder the progress of mediation. So, invest time in preparing your client—it’s an investment in the success of the mediation. This includes explaining the mediation process, discussing potential outcomes, and setting realistic expectations. It also involves preparing your client emotionally, as mediation can be an emotionally charged process.

Mistake 7: Confront Instead of Cooperate

Mediation is not a battlefield; it’s a forum for cooperation. Confrontational attitudes can escalate tensions and block communication. Remember, the goal is not to defeat the other party but to find a solution that works for everyone. So, replace confrontation with cooperation, and watch how it transforms the mediation process. This involves understanding the other party’s perspective, finding common ground, and working together to find a solution. It’s about fostering a positive and respectful environment where everyone feels heard and valued.

Mistake 8: Forget What’s Best for the Children

In family law mediation involving children, the welfare of the children should always be the top priority. It’s easy to get caught up in disputes and forget what’s truly important. Remember, decisions made during mediation will significantly impact your children’s lives. So, always keep their best interests at heart. This means considering their emotional well-being, their needs, and their wishes. It also means working cooperatively with the other parent to ensure a stable and loving environment for your children.

Mistake 9: Come to the Mediation Unprepared

Walking into a mediation session unprepared can be like sailing into a storm without a compass. It’s essential to understand the issues at hand, know your goals, and be ready to discuss them. Preparation also includes emotional readiness, as mediation can be an emotionally charged process. So, take the time to prepare both practically and emotionally. This includes understanding the issues at hand, knowing your goals, and being emotionally ready to discuss them. It also involves preparing for possible outcomes and being ready to negotiate.

Mistake 10: Blame Your Spouse

Blame is a heavy burden that can weigh down the mediation process. Focusing on past faults and blaming your spouse can create a hostile environment, making it difficult to reach a resolution. Instead, focus on the present and the future. Remember, mediation is about finding solutions, not pointing fingers. This involves focusing on the issues at hand, discussing them constructively, and finding solutions. It’s about moving forward, not dwelling on the past.

Final Thoughts

Family law mediation is a journey, and like any journey, it can have its bumps along the way. But by being aware of these common mistakes and knowing how to avoid them, you can navigate this journey with greater ease and confidence. Remember, the goal of mediation is not to ‘win’ but to find a resolution that respects everyone’s needs and interests. With understanding, empathy, and preparation, you can turn the mediation process into a path towards a brighter future.

Remember, it’s okay to seek help. Reach out to professionals, join support groups, and lean on your loved ones. You’re not alone in this journey. We hope this blog post has provided you with valuable insights to help you navigate your family law mediation process. Stay strong, and keep moving forward. We’re here for you, providing the guidance and support you need to navigate this challenging process. Remember, every step you take is a step towards resolution and peace. Keep going, keep growing, and remember, you’re not alone in this journey.

For further information on Family Mediation, see our Family Mediation: Resolving Family Law Disputes – An Essential Guide.

Cheryl Goldhart is a mediator that can make a difference.

  • Cheryl has nearly 40 years of experience as a family law lawyer.
  • She holds a Masters degree in Counselling.
  • Cheryl is recognized by the Law Society of Ontario as a Certified Family Law Specialist.
  • She is designated by the Ontario Association for Family Mediation as an Accredited Family Mediator.
  • Cheryl is a Designated ADR Professional by the ADR Institute of Ontario.
  • She is the recipient of many awards and accolades, including the Ontario Bar Association’s Award For Excellence In Family Law, which is awarded to a single outstanding nominee annually.

Legal Disclaimer: See Privacy Policy

Scroll to Top