Category Archives: Family Dispute Resolution

Conferenced-Out: Divorcing Families Need Help Outside of Conference Rooms!

Mediation is no longer something new. Ontarians however, don’t really know much about it and  when they do, the information has been somewhat distorted by the time it has gotten to them. As an accredited mediator, this troubles me!

With the exception of some great speakers, family mediators have yet to experience a sense of “quid pro quo” or professional fraternity when attending conferences. Those prominent names of 20+ years ago are the same gatekeepers entering today through the same revolving door. While current topics may have incorporated today’s “hottest buzzwords and phrases” (such as “access to justice”), at a macro level, not much has changed. The question still remains: what are the real benefits of attending conferences and how does it serve our public?  As an accredited mediator, this troubles me!

I have been on both sides: attending and organizing conferences. I have been vocal about the dire need for educating the public about mediation and its benefits; educating the lawyers on how to best support their clients through mediation; lobbying the government to allocate dollars to out-of-court mediation programs; and promoting mediation in an unified manner. And, yet, to date, someone seeking information about mediation, will get at least three different versions: one from mediators, another one from lawyers, and yet another one from our justice system. No one is taking responsibility. Sadly, political and personal agendas seem to be louder than people’s voices and families’ needs! As an accredited mediator, this troubles me!

And, for these reasons, I am all conferenced out!

I entered the mediation field with highest hopes: to help families overcome what could be a very traumatic experience; to guide people through what could be an extremely overwhelming process; and to instill a sense of hope in the health of their post-divorce reorganization! And… I can’t do this from a conference room!

Child Support Woes: Angelina Jolie & Brad Pitt Edition

Celebrity A-Listers Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt made headlines this week when Jolie filed court documents in Los Angeles, claiming that Pitt has paid “no meaningful child support since separation”. Jolie is requesting the Court to Order retro-active child support from the date of separation. The couple separated in September 2016 after two years of marriage; they have six children (biological and adopted) with ages ranging between 17 to 10.

CHILD SUPPORT IN ONTARIO – HOW DOES IT WORK?
The law requires all parents to financially support their dependent children. In most cases, the amount of child support is determined by the Federal Child Support Guidelines. These Guidelines say that child support is usually made up of:

  1. a basic monthly amount, called the table amount AND
  2. an amount for other expenses, called special & extraordinary expenses

Basic Amount/Table Amount
The “basic amount” (also known as the “table amount”) of child support, is a monthly amount of support paid to cover the child’s everyday expenses like clothes, food, and housing. This amount is based on the following factors:

  • the payor’s gross annual income;
  • the number of children they have to support and
  • the parenting schedule.

The Child Support Table is different for each province. If both parents live in Ontario, the Ontario table applies. If the child support payor lives outside of Ontario (but still in Canada), the Table for that province or territory applies.

Special & Extraordinary Expenses
According to the Federal Child Support Guidelines, parents must share certain expenses over and above the monthly table amount, proportionate to income. “Special expenses” are typically:

  • child care expenses;
  • Medical expenses not covered by OHIP or insurance;
  • Post-secondary education; and,
  • Extracurricular activities.

Extraordinary expenses are different from special expenses in that they are irregular in occurrence and quite large in expense (in comparison to the incomes of the parents). The expense must relate to the child’s special needs/talents, be in the child’s best interest and be reasonable, considering the parent’s incomes. Examples can include expenses for competitive sports and specialized educational classes.

In the case of Jolie/Pitt, according to reports, the estranged couple do not agree on child support. Pitt has stated, allegedly, that he has already made adequate child support payments, including an eight million-dollar ($8,000,000.00) loan to Jolie. Lawyers for Jolie argue that the loan was for housing costs, not child support, and that Pitt has been delinquent on payments since date of separation in 2016. Jolie is asking the Court to order Pitt pay child support, including retro-active payments.

WHAT IS RETRO-ACTIVE CHILD SUPPORT?
The law is clear that it is the child support payor’s obligation to ensure that he or she is paying the correct amount of child support. If a child support payor has under-paid or did not pay child support at all, the law allows the child-support recipient to sue for back-dated (or “retro-active”) payments. In Ontario, a child-support payor can be ordered to pay retro-active child support for the past three years and even in some cases, retro-active child support can go past three years where the payor has acted in a blameworthy way. For example, if the payor parent hid their financial information from the other parent.

DO I NEED TO GO TO COURT TO GET CHILD SUPPORT?
Not necessarily. Parents can attend mediation together, whereby they discuss the Child Support Guidelines, their needs and the best interests of the child to create an agreement on child support. If parents agree on the amount of child support, they can document the amount of child support and the pay schedule in a separation agreement.

If parents cannot agree on child support, then they must go to arbitration (for an arbitral award) or court (for a court order) where a third party can make a decision on their behalf. It is always best to start with mediation because of all of the options available, it can be the most cost-effective, timely and most importantly, parents have the most control over the outcome.

by
Eva Iole DiGiammarino
Hons BA, JD, ADR Cert.

Divorce Information Session

Focusing on divorce options, in-and-out of court.

These sessions are conducted by a family lawyer and provide a general overview of the areas of law that are relevant to separation and divorce, such as the different rights for married couples versus couples who are not married but live together, the law regarding spousal support, child support and support enforcement.

Our dedicated group recognizes that without knowledge – without first having legal information, on the effects of separation and divorce on adults and children; alternatives to litigation; family law issues; the family court system and local resources and programs, people are committed to a system that they never have wanted in the first place.

For full schedule & to register, please see below which locations are convenient.  

Pickering Library Central – monthly sessions ( check schedule)

Customized Divorce Information Session (by appointment only)

“…adversarial family law system “appeared to encourage couples to become adversaries to a greater degree than they already are….to aggravate relations with the spouse…and to upset and humiliate people” (pp.214-215).” (Ellis, 2014)

Affordable Family Mediation

Family & Divorce Mediation 

Serving Durham, GTA and Peel Region

FMRC provides free and sliding-fee scale family mediation to families experiencing divorce or separation. We provide help with all of your matters, including financials, parenting plans and Separation Agreements (if needed).

Research clearly shows that going to court is committing to an adversarial and conflict ridden process; not to mention, lengthy and costly! We will help you stay out of court and keep control over decisions regarding your family.

What is family mediation?

Family Mediation is a voluntary process where a trained professional, called a mediator, helps participants to negotiate a mutually acceptable agreement.  A mediator, unlike a judge or arbitrator, will not make decisions for you. You and your partner decide what will happen for your family. The mediator will act as a facilitator and referee, to help guide you regarding personal decisions for your lives and those whom you love. The key is: You and your partner maintain control over the outcome.

How does family mediation work?

Each party describes the dispute from his or her own point of view and offers possible solutions. The mediator helps the parties to focus on the real issues causing the problem and then helps them to find a workable solution(s). When the parties arrive at an agreement, the agreement is put in writing.

How do you begin the process?

Contact us to schedule an intake meeting. If you have a lawyer, ask him or her to connect with us.

Are there cases that should not be mediated?

Almost all problems can be resolved in family law mediation! You should however discuss with your lawyer or mediator about your specific circumstances.

How does divorce mediation help the couple emotionally?

Mediation supports the healing process; helps you focus on your future; eliminates aggressive bargaining and legal games; prioritizes the well-being of the children and addresses the parties’ needs and interests. You have a voice in the process.

So… Why choose Family Mediation?

It works. 80% family mediations end in agreement as the parties are motivated to find resolution.

It’s affordable. Parties generally agree to split the cost of a mediator. Mediated cases avoid costly litigation.

It’s quick. If everyone is committed, mediation results in settlement far quicker than waiting until near trial to settle.

It’s private. Almost everything disclosed during mediation is confidential and cannot be used in a lawsuit.

It’s impartial. Mediators have no stake in the outcome. Their role is to facilitate resolution of the family matters.

It’s cooperative, not adversarial. Family Mediation provides a comfortable, safe and respectful setting for discussion. It is no where as combative as court cases.

Let FMRC help you today!