“My spouse and I are not talking at this point. Will mediation work? Do we always meet together in mediation?”
Whether it works depends on how willing each party is to sit down together, with a neutral third party (the mediator), and attempt to work things out. A mediation service helps both parties by talking to each person by telephone, to determine readiness or a willingness to proceed. If the mediator doesn’t think mediation will work at this time, they’ll likely be honest with you and suggest a “time-out” or counselling. They may also recommend that you both consult with a lawyer, preferably one who understands and supports mediation.
Prior to the start of mediation, the mediator will usually meet with both parties individually. Normally, the mediator will conduct the sessions together with both parties, because there is great power in the dialogue of both parties present together. However, most mediators occasionally break during a joint meeting to discuss individually with both parties the emerging issues and their separate concerns. These individual meetings are routine and part of the mediation process, and they are often very powerful. The mediator will decide if and when to break for an individual meeting. Should you have any concerns, you can ask to meet with the mediator alone.
Itasha O’Gilvie is a divorce mediator with Toronto mediation firm Take 2 Mediation.