When parties begin a family law court proceeding in Ontario, they are required to attend at a Mandatory Information Program (“MIP”). MIPs are usually held at the courthouse and are free of charge. Separating or divorcing parties are each given a separate session, in order so that the parties do have to see or speak to one another. The MIP should be completed no later than 45 days from when the case commenced, and preferably before your First Appearance. The purpose of the MIP is twofold. They assist parties with navigating the legal process and court proceedings. The information also assists the parties in emotionally dealing with what for many can be a daunting and confusing process. Having clarity on the court process and their respective duties and responsibilities makes the process more manageable. The length of a MIP session will depend on whether there are children involved or not. If there are no children involved, the session will usually last an hour. If there are children involved, the session with typically last two hours. The Session During the first hour, a lawyer and a family or mental health professional provide basic information on family law, the court process and alternatives to court, such as Alternative Dispute Resolution (negotiation, mediation, arbitration and collaborative family law). See this blog for more information on Alternative Dispute Resolution. During the second hour, they talk about family law that relates to children and how you can help your children cope as you and your partner separate. You also learn about community resources that can help you and your family through this process. It is important to note, however, that the MIP sessions are for the adults involved in the case only. Children are not supposed to attend. If you are not able to make it to your MIP session, simply contact your local Family Law Information Center located at the court and ask for another date. If you are unsure about whether you need to attend a MIP, take note that the following situations do not require a MIP. These are:
- You only want a divorce and nothing else.
- You and your partner agree on what you want the court to order.
- You’ve already been to a MIP session.
- You want to file a separation agreement with the court.
- You want to bring a motion to change a support order.