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

Separation and divorce are life-altering events that can lead to complex disputes and emotional turmoil. Family law mediation provides a structured, neutral environment to resolve conflicts and reach mutually agreeable solutions. This essential checklist offers guidance to help you effectively prepare for family mediation and navigate the process with confidence.


  • Issue Identification: Begin by listing all potential areas of disagreement that need to be addressed during mediation. This may include a wide range of topics, such as parenting arrangements, spousal support, child support, property division, and other financial matters related to your separation or divorce.
  • Issue Categorization: Once you have a comprehensive list, categorize the issues into groups such as child-related matters, financial issues, and property concerns. This organization will help you better manage and address the topics during the mediation process.
  • Issue Prioritization: Within each category, rank the issues based on their importance and urgency to you. This prioritization will help you focus on the most critical matters first during mediation sessions.
  • Interests and Needs Analysis: For each issue, identify your underlying interests and needs. Distinguish between your non-negotiable requirements and areas where you may have some flexibility. This analysis will help shape your negotiation strategy in mediation.


  • Financial Records: Compile all relevant financial documents, including bank statements, tax returns, pay stubs, investment account statements, retirement account information, property deeds, and vehicle titles. Create an organized filing system for easy access during mediation.
  • Legal Documents: Assemble any existing legal agreements or court orders related to your separation or divorce, such as a separation agreement, parenting plan, or temporary orders. If you have completed a financial disclosure document like Ontario Form 13 or 13.1, include this as well.
  • Supplementary Evidence: Gather any additional evidence that may support your position on specific issues, such as correspondence, photographs, receipts, or other relevant materials. Ensure these items are well-organized and readily available.
  • Documentation Review: Thoroughly review all your assembled documents to confirm they are accurate, complete, and up to date. Carefully check dates, amounts, and other critical details, as any discrepancies could potentially undermine your credibility during mediation.


  • Legal Consultation: Schedule a meeting with a knowledgeable family law lawyer to discuss your unique situation and gain a clear understanding of your rights and obligations in the separation or divorce process. A lawyer can offer personalized advice on key issues like parenting arrangements, support payments, and property division.
  • Case Preparation: Review your identified issues and priorities with your lawyer. They can provide valuable insights on the potential outcomes, help you assess the strengths and weaknesses of your position, and recommend strategies for effectively presenting your case in mediation.
  • Legal Document Review: Ask your lawyer to examine your financial records and legal documents to ensure accuracy, completeness, and compliance with disclosure requirements. They can also explain any complex legal terms or provisions and their potential implications for your case.


  • Position Statements: For each issue, compose a concise statement articulating your perspective and the reasoning behind it. Practice presenting your position statements to ensure you can communicate your views clearly and persuasively during mediation sessions.
  • Evidence Preparation: Determine which evidence best supports your position on each issue. Organize your evidence in a logical manner so you can easily present it during mediation to reinforce your arguments.
  • Questions and Clarifications: Prepare a list of questions you need to ask or points that require clarification from the other party. Raising these inquiries can help address misunderstandings, gather missing information, and foster productive dialogue during mediation.


  • Strategic Planning: Formulate a thoughtful negotiation strategy that outlines the order in which you will address issues, your proposed solutions, and potential responses to offers from the other party. While it’s essential to have a plan, remain open to adjusting your approach as mediation unfolds and new information emerges.
  • Identify Areas for Compromise: Recognize that mediation often involves give and take. Identify issues where you are willing to make concessions or explore alternative solutions. Having a clear understanding of your flexibility can help you make progress in negotiations while still protecting your most important interests.
  • BATNA Awareness: Consider your Best Alternative To a Negotiated Agreement (BATNA) – the most favorable outcome you could achieve if mediation fails to produce a settlement. Keeping your BATNA in mind helps you maintain perspective, set realistic expectations, and make informed decisions throughout the process.
  • Negotiation Techniques: Familiarize yourself with fundamental negotiation principles and techniques that can aid you in mediation. Practice active listening, use “I” statements to express your perspective without accusation, and aim to understand the other party’s underlying interests behind their positions.


  • Manage Stress Effectively: Mediation can be an emotionally challenging and stressful experience. Proactively manage your stress by practicing relaxation techniques like deep breathing, mindfulness exercises, or engaging in physical activities you enjoy. Taking care of your mental well-being will help you stay focused and resilient.
  • Emotional Preparation: Acknowledge and prepare for the range of emotions that may arise during mediation, such as anger, frustration, sadness, or anxiety. Develop healthy coping strategies to navigate these emotions constructively, such as journaling, talking with a trusted friend, or seeking the guidance of a therapist.
  • Support System: Identify a network of supportive individuals who can offer encouragement and a listening ear throughout the mediation process. This may include close friends, family members, or a professional counselor. Regularly connect with your support system to share your feelings, concerns, and experiences.


  • Scheduling and Location: Confirm the dates, times, and location of your mediation sessions well in advance. Ensure you have clear directions to the venue and factor in sufficient travel time to arrive promptly. If you have any scheduling constraints or require accommodations, communicate these needs to the mediator.
  • Childcare Arrangements: If you have young children, make appropriate childcare arrangements for the duration of your mediation sessions. Knowing your children are well cared for will allow you to focus your full attention on the mediation process without distraction or worry.


  • Agreement Review: If mediation results in a tentative agreement, take ample time to thoroughly review and understand all the terms and conditions. If any provisions are unclear or raise concerns, don’t hesitate to ask for clarification or further discussion.
  • Legal Counsel Review: Before signing any binding agreement, have your lawyer review the proposed settlement to ensure it aligns with your rights, interests, and legal obligations. Your lawyer can identify potential issues, suggest modifications, and confirm that the agreement is legally sound and enforceable.
  • Plan Next Steps: If mediation does not yield a full agreement, work with your mediator and lawyer to determine the most appropriate next steps. This may involve scheduling additional mediation sessions, exploring alternative dispute resolution methods like arbitration, or proceeding with court litigation as a last resort.


  • Patience and Open-Mindedness: Embrace patience throughout the mediation process, recognizing that complex issues often require time and persistence to resolve. Maintain an open mind, be willing to consider alternative viewpoints, and remain committed to finding mutually beneficial solutions.
  • Confidentiality: Bear in mind that discussions during mediation are confidential and cannot be used as evidence in court, should litigation become necessary. This confidentiality provision fosters an environment where parties can engage in candid, productive conversations without fear of compromising their legal position.
  • Post-Mediation Reflection: After the mediation process concludes, invest time in reflecting on your experiences, the outcomes achieved, and the lessons learned. Engage in honest self-evaluation to identify areas for personal growth, celebrate your strengths, and consider how you can apply your insights to future challenges and opportunities.
  • Ongoing Personal Development: View mediation as part of a larger journey of personal growth and resilience. Continue to prioritize self-care practices, such as maintaining a healthy lifestyle, nurturing relationships, pursuing hobbies and interests, and engaging in activities that promote emotional well-being and stress reduction.

While this checklist offers a framework, remember that each separation and divorce is unique. Tailor these guidelines to your specific needs and circumstances, and always seek the personalized advice of a qualified family law lawyer to protect your rights and interests.

If you are facing separation or divorce and need skilled legal guidance and support, Goldhart Law PC is here to help. Our compassionate team of family law lawyers has extensive experience navigating complex mediation processes and achieving favorable outcomes for our clients.

Contact us today to schedule a consultation and take a confident step towards resolving your family law matters.


Justice Canada Family Law – This is a comprehensive resource from the Canadian government that provides information on family law in general.

Ontario Family Law Rules – The official family law rules for Ontario, Canada.

Legal Aid Ontario – Legal Aid Ontario provides legal assistance for low-income people living in Ontario.

Contact us today for clarity and peace of mind.

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Cheryl Goldhart is a family law lawyer who can make a difference in resolving your family disputes.

  • Nearly 40 Years of Dedicated Family Law Practice: Cheryl brings nearly four decades of exclusive family law practice to your issues.
  • Masters Degree in Counselling: With a Masters Degree in Counselling, Cheryl uniquely blends empathy with astute insight.
  • Certified Family Law Specialist by the Law Society: Cheryl’s expertise in family law is affirmed by her certification as a Family Law Specialist.
  • Accredited Family Mediator by OAFM: The Ontario Association for Family Mediation recognizes Cheryl’s expertise in family law mediation.
  • Arbitration Expertise Acknowledged by ADR Institute: Cheryl holds a professional designation from the ADR Institute of Ontario, underscoring her expertise in arbitration.
  • Award-Winning Contributions to Family Law: Cheryl’s extensive contributions to family law have earned her multiple accolades, including the prestigious Award for Excellence in Family Law from the Ontario Bar Association.

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Disclaimer: The information provided in this blog post is intended for general informational purposes only and should not be considered as legal advice. Consult with a qualified family law attorney for advice regarding your specific situation. Goldhart Law Professional Corporation is not responsible for any actions taken based on the information presented in this blog.

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