The Benefit of Mediation

By Peter Ehrlich

Breaking up as a parent can hurt for a lifetime because, for the sake of the children, your ex will likely always play a part in your lives.

What does "for the sake of the children" mean? As Toronto mediator Joan Sinclair told me, "Children instinctively believe that they are the embodiment of both parents."

And it's true, they are.

When parents fight, children cannot fathom the uncivil civil war raging in front of them. Their DNA is your DNA. They don't spend time hurting themselves – why would you?

Single parents need to take every opportunity to create family peace. One way is to consider avoiding the adversarial court system and use mediation.

Family mediation is defined as having a third neutral party listen to your stories and guide you both through to an understanding.

A good mediator can move you from the past into the present and future, and set you on a course that is not focused on you as a couple but rather on parenting – and that benefits the child.

A simple mediated agreement is created when both parties can come to a quick understanding and have their lawyers vet and approve it. This will cost approximately $7,000 – $5,000 for the mediation, plus a minimum of $2,000 in lawyer fees.

"Transformative family mediation" is used when parties want to begin forgiving each other and start to co-operate in raising their children. The children may be asked to participate in the mediation. With legal fees, this will cost approximately $10,000.

Hiring only lawyers and battling it out in court will run from $20,000 to seven figures.

Somehow, I think it would be better if that money was put into a registered education savings plan for the kids.

An experienced mediator can almost always predict a court outcome, as in, "Look, I know you think you're really getting screwed by your ex but at the end of the day, this is what's going to happen."

The Chinese sometimes say retreat is the best form of moving forward. (See the I Ching, Number 33.) In this case, it's true.

With a mediated settlement, you can sit down with your children and say, "Your father and I have worked out this agreement." The benefit of presenting a unified front cannot be underestimated – not to mention the aid it offers to healing and moving on.

Is there a drawback? Yes, if your partner is a domineering force who relishes the imbalance. He or she could end up controlling the mediation process, so at the end of the day the agreement is a written representation what's wrong with your relationship.

Ask yourself, "Would I do better in court where I can have a savvy lawyer fight hard for me because I can't trust my ex?"

Insofar as choosing the right mediator for you, you have every right to interview a mediator much the way you would a doctor or lawyer. Do you like their approach and feel you can trust them? Are you comfortable in the room together? If it's a referral, do you trust whoever made it?

Research shows that mediated agreements stick because the couple takes pride in the fact they co-authored it and are therefore more apt to work harder on making their new relationship work.

To find a mediator, ask your lawyer, doctor or friends or go to, or contact the Ontario Association for Family Mediation at

Consider taking the high road; it's the road children prefer to travel on.

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