Hi, my name is Shilpa Mehta and I am a lawyer with Feldstein Family Law Group.
Today I am going to talk to you about the Mandatory Information Program.
In my practice, I have met with numerous clients who come to my office investigating this “new” requirement in the province of Ontario which mandates that separating couples attend an information program before they are able to file for divorce.
The Mandatory Information Program, or MIP, consists of a 2-hour information session and is typically held at the courthouse where the court proceeding has been commenced.
The requirement for the MIP has been in place in Toronto for many years and then extended to the Brampton and Milton areas. In September of 2011, the rule became applicable to the rest of Ontario. However, attending the MIP is not required in every case.
Specifically, the requirement does not apply when parties are making an Application for a simple divorce. The requirement to attend a MIP only applies if you are commencing an Application in which you are seeking something more than a divorce such as spousal support, child custody/access support, making a claim for equalization and so on. The MIP also does not apply to joint divorces.
Essentially, you must complete a two-hour MIP only in contested family cases and this must be done before you will be permitted to appear before a judge.
So, if you are the one initiating the Application for divorce, your spouse would only have to attend a separate session if he or she disagrees with any of the claims in your Application or makes his or her own claims.
Also, the MIP should not be confused for mediation and as explained earlier both spouse do not attend at the MIP session together.
The MIP sessions are scheduled when the Applicant (the person initiating the claim) files an application that starts a family law case. The Applicant receives two notices when they issue their Application: one that advises them of the date of their MIP session and other Notice provides the date for when the Respondent must attend. It is therefore the Applicant’s responsibility to serve the Respondent’s MIP Notice upon them.
It is also important that the Respondent be aware of the fact that the Applicant knows the date of the Respondent’s MIP session and therefore, if there are any safety concerns, the Respondent may want to change the date for their session. Alternatively, there is always security available at the courthouse and if there are any safety concerns due to family violence, you may wish to advise the court staff and seek police escort.
What topics does the Mandatory Information Program cover?
According to Family Law Rule 8.1, the mandatory information program provides participants with information about separation and the legal process, and may include information on topics such as, (a) the options available for resolving differences, including alternatives to going to court; (b) the impact the separation of parents has on children; and (c) resources available to deal with problems arising from separation
The Mandatory Information Program also has side benefits.
In cases where one party is self represented, the MIP serves as an excellent opportunity for that person to become familiar with the family court and the different resolution options that may be available to them other than litigation.
While I encourage all of my clients to attempt out of court settlement discussions and proceed with litigation only as a last resort, in cases where it has become necessary to commence an Application, I find that both parties are often more willing to take part in meaningful settlement after having attended their MIP sessions.
Remember, there is nothing that precludes couples from settling their matter out of court irrespective of what stage of litigation you may be at and I think that the MIP sessions often serve as a reminder of this fact.
If you would like to learn more about the Mandatory Information Program, visit our website. If you need legal advice about your own situation, please contact us to schedule an initial consultation. Thanks for watching.