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Family Conciliation Services - Frequently Asked Questions

Support for families that are separating in transition

Family Conciliation Services provides a range of conflict resolution services to families going through separation or divorce. Our staff is made up of skilled counsellors and our services are offered at no cost. Services are provided in two ways: at the request of the court, or directly to family members.
 
The Family Division of the Court of Queen's Bench has developed a close working relationship with Family Conciliation Services. The Judge may refer family members to one of Family Conciliation's services or may request an assessment or information from Family Conciliation Services to help make a decision about the ongoing care of the children.

 

How can Family Conciliation Services help my family?

You may be referred to Family Conciliation Services by the court, your lawyer, legal aid, a social service agency, or you may decide to come on your own. Because the family is the focal point of everyday living, when a separation or divorce occurs, family members may experience a variety of very strong emotions: anger, despair, hostility and sadness. We can help. Depending on your needs, we offer a number of services to individuals, couples or families.
 

What are the services offered by Family Conciliation Services?

  1. Parent Information Program. For the Sake of the Children is an information program offered free to parents to help them understand what they are going through, both legally and emotionally and to learn more about the needs of children upon separation. Attendance is mandatory for those seeking or responding to requests for child custody, access or guardianship. Both parents are encouraged, or may be required, to attend and will be registered for separate session. It is a six-hour program divided into two seminars of three hours each, with two program options depending on the whether there are lower or higher levels of conflict between parents. The program is also open to other interested individuals, such as grandparents and other extended family members. To register, call the Family Conciliation Services office nearest you.
  2. Mediation. This service is an alternative to traditional court action for parents who are willing to meet and work together with an impartial, trained mediator to make decisions about the ongoing needs of their children after separation. Parents may also choose to mediate all of the issues arising from their separation including child support, spousal support and the division of marital property (called Comprehensive Co-Mediation, this service is offered through the Winnipeg office). Mediation is a voluntary process. You may refer yourselves, be referred by your lawyer, a judge or a social service agency.
  3. Information and Referral. When parents are going through a separation or divorce, uncertainty and confusion are common. It is difficult to know what services are available and where you can find them. This service assesses a person's needs and assists the person to determine whether the appropriate service can be best provided by Family Conciliation Services, lawyers or the court, or through agencies in the community.
  4. Conciliation Counselling. This short-term counselling is provided to individuals, couples or families in the process of separation or divorce. It is not reconciliation counselling. If reconciliation is possible, the couple will be referred to another agency or service. For more information on post-separation counselling, view our parenting after separation page.
  5. Support and Education Program for Children. Caught in the Middle is a group for children ages 8 to 12 whose parents are in conflict over separation and divorce issues. Group size is six to eight children. Two sessions are offered during the year, fall and early winter, usually Tuesday evenings for seven weeks from 6:00 to 7:30 p.m. Just for Teens is an informational seminar for teens aged 12 to 17. It provides neutral information regarding the separation process, changes that occur to the family, how to cope with their feelings, in addition to legal issues. Teens are encouraged to think beyond the separation/divorce and to concentrate on their own needs as they adjust to life in two homes. In the Brandon area, community-based group discussion and information is offered in a workshop format for children ages 14-17 years to help with adjustment to parental separation. If you feel your child(ren) would benefit from these programs, contact the Family Conciliation Services office nearest you.
  6. Brief Consultation Service. This service provides a brief consultation to parents and the court to help address the wishes or concerns of older children ages 11 to 17. Once the court has referred a family, a counsellor will meet with and assess the parents' and child(ren)'s concerns within ten working days. A report will be available to the court within 20 to 25 working days.
  7. First Choice Service. First Choice is a brief confidential evaluation service; a combination of assessment, mediation and settlement conferencing designed to help resolve custody and access issues in a timely way. The service is an alternative to a traditional court-ordered assessment and is available to parents, grandparents and other extended family members.
  8. Court-Ordered Assessment. When parents are unable to agree upon decisions about their children, the court may direct Family Conciliation Services to conduct an assessment of the family situation to help determine what is in the best interests of the children. A counsellor will interview and observe the parents, the children, and other involved parties and based on that information, prepare a report for the court to consider. Families may be referred for a shorter, focused assessment or a full, more traditional evaluation.

What are the benefits of Mediation?

    • Co-operative negotiation ensures that both parents have input in determining custody and access arrangements for their children.
    • The children feel more secure knowing that their parents are willing to continue working together to resolve family problems.
    • Parents are in the best position to decide what their children need from them.
    • The mediation process helps people develop some trust again in each other as parents and allows for future negotiation on issues that will arise.
    • It is easier to work with a plan that you have formulated, than one that is imposed by the court.
    • Mediation can help you avoid a long and costly court battle, which is adversarial in nature.
 
Mediation usually takes between eight and twelve hours, broken into an average of five to six sessions.
 
The lawyer is not directly involved in the mediation process. However, you are encouraged to obtain independent legal advice to be clear about your rights and responsibilities regarding the matters being mediated.
 

What happens after mediation?

If issues are resolved, the parents may draw up a written parenting agreement. Your lawyers can assist in legalizing this agreement. If an agreement is not reached, the decision may become the responsibility of the court. The Judge may request a court ordered assessment which is carried out by a family evaluator other than the mediator and submitted to court as evidence. The family evaluator and the mediator do not discuss the case, as mediation is confidential.
 
If your agreement does not work out for you or you want to make changes, you are encouraged to return to mediation.
 
 

How do I know if mediation is for me?

    • Can I set aside my anger/hurt feelings for the well-being of my children?
    • Am I willing to listen to the other side of the story?
    • Am I willing to negotiate an agreement that is in the best interests of the children?
    • Am I willing to trust the other parent enough to uphold a mutually satisfactory agreement?
    • Do I see this process in terms of compromise rather than winning or losing?
    • If you have answered yes to most of these questions, you are good candidate for mediation. It is essential that both parents are willing to participate in the mediation process, setting aside disagreements for the good of the family.
 

Contact information

Family Conciliation Services is province-wide. There are offices in Winnipeg, Brandon, Dauphin, Thompson, The Pas and Flin Flon.
 
For more information, call or write.