Specialized Services for Separating and Divorcing Families
Mediation is a process whereby parents work collaboratively with a neutral professional to consider and resolve the
child-related issues and the details of coparenting within a post-separation reality. The process enables parents to
address some of the differences between them to establish more functional coparent communication which, left
unresolved, may impact adversely on their children’s health, happiness, and stability. The mediation process
encourages better communication skills and provides an opportunity for parents to work cooperatively with one
another. In contrast to litigation, the parents work with their mediator who will promote conflict resolution while
addressing their respective concerns with a focus on the best interests of their children. Most parents are able to
use mediation effectively and as such avoid the cost and stress often associated with litigation.
Mediators can either be mental health professionals or lawyers who have expertise in this specialized area. Mediation
services may be either ‘closed’ or ‘open’; at Connections, we provide closed mediation services.
Closed mediation is a private, off-the-record process. The parents enter a closed mediation contract stipulating that
the content of the entire mediation process is inadmissible in any future legal materials or proceedings, nor is the
mediator a compellable witness in a court proceeding. However, a detailed summary of agreements — a ‘parenting plan’ —
will be provided at the end of the process.
A parenting plan is a document that outlines the coparent agreements reached during mediation about the
ways in which they will participate in the lives of their children, including as examples, processes for major and
day-to-day decisions, the parenting schedule, the details of vacations with the children, coparent communication, and
future dispute resolution. Parenting plans provide a rule book of sorts which parents follow to reduce potential
conflicts as they plan or raise and address coparent issues. Any topics that the parents are unable to resolve are not
reflected in the document.
A Parenting Plan is not a legally binding document until each parent receives independent legal advice from their
counsel and then signs it. It can be executed with the lawyers as a separate document or incorporated into their
Separation Agreement, or as an appendix to it.
Parenting Plan Assessments (Section 30 Assessments)
When parents decide to separate, it is necessary for them to work out child-related matters such as final
decision-making authority on major issues and parenting time, as well as other issues
related to coparenting their children. When parents are unable to settle these matters, a parenting plan assessment
may be ordered under Section 30 of the Children’s Law Reform Act. At Connections Child
and Family, Section 30 assessments are available, however on a limited basis.
A parenting plan assessment is a complex and comprehensive process. It involves a detailed assessment of a family's
situation through extensive interviews of parents, the children, significant family members and community professionals,
such as the child's school, therapists, and doctors. At times, psychological testing may be required. Additionally,
observations of each parent with the children will take place.
Assessments typically require between 45 to 60 hours of clinical time, spanning four to six months; however, this can
vary from family to family. After obtaining detailed historical information and a fulsome understanding of the current
dynamics perpetuating the impasse, parenting plan recommendations determined to meet the children’s developmental needs
and consistent with their overall best interests are provided. Such recommendations often comprise a detailed parenting
plan, usually disclosed in a meeting with the parents and legal counsel. The parents may choose to agree or disagree
with the recommendations in whole or in part. The parents may negotiate an agreed upon parenting plan based on the
assessment recommendations, accepting some and altering others. It is hoped the process and recommendations may
facilitate settlement between the coparents and promote future healthy family relationships within the context of
Views and Preferences (Voice of the Child)
When parents separate or divorce, significant decisions are typically made impacting the day-to-day lives of their
children. The Views and Preferences process provides a way for children to have a voice in family law proceedings that
may affect them.
In the social science literature, there is growing recognition of the value of children having age-appropriate input,
and for their parents to consider this input in their post-separation planning. Older children may benefit from sharing
what is important to them in their lives, which may include expressing their ideas about special activities or living
arrangements. Parents are also more likely to settle their disputes if they understand how their children see their
situation and understand what is important to them. In the context of a Views and Preferences process, the child is
informed that the process will give space for their voice on a number of issues and that their parents, or another
decision-maker, will make the final decisions. Care and attention are given to alleviate concerns a child may have about
choosing between parents, and to keep them from the middle of separation-divorce conflict that may exist between their
Upon request, a Views and Preferences Report will be prepared and issued to parents and counsel. This report shall
detail the themes discussed with the child, and their perspectives on a range of issues identified during the meetings
with the clinician.