Divorce and better parenting
Mar 15th, 2017 by Families First Mediation

Ok, I’m not saying that this is always the case and I’m not trying to go against all of the people that say divorce hurts children.

Here’s a positive though, see if it resonates with any of you. I AM A BETTER MOM because of my divorce. I don’t take my kids for granted, there isn’t always tomorrow to spend time with them, they could be at Dad’s

When they were smaller, I did laundry, cleaned and did shopping on the weeks that I didn’t have my children. I also worked overtime and travelled on the weeks that I didn’t have my children.

Do you know what I did on the weeks I did have my children? Played, talked and spent time with them. What a joy!

I’m a better mom because I stopped delegating things to their Dad. I rarely got babysitters, I learned how to cook (although this took years), I got home from work on time, I helped with homework, I was involved in my children’s lives in a way I was not when my ex and I were together.

I was there when they were sick, I took them to appointments, I was there for the tears, the laughs and the temper tantrums.

When I was focused on my career and financially supporting our family with a stay at home Dad I missed bath time, bedtimes, extracurricular, school events (such as Mother’s Day tea) and even missed my daughter’s first birthday.

Now I try not to miss anything. It’s just not worth it. Our divorce allowed me the opportunity to refocus my priorities, which I now think that I have in the right order.

My children and I travelled together, we were the 3 musketeers. We had so much fun. I got to enjoy who my children were as people and leave some of life’s stressor to be dealt with when I didn’t have them.

Having that “me” time takes some getting used to. You think that you are missing so much time already, so make good use of the time you do have with the children. After a little break, you may be less stressed, ….and more open.

If you ask my ex I’m sure he would say that he was a better parent than me and that the children should have grown up with him as the primary parent – at least that was his argument at the beginning.  As do many parents, I struggled with this, what was better? A stable home for the children or a stable co-parenting arrangement? One involved a primary home and a primary parent, the other 2 homes and 2 equal parents.

At the end of the day we decided that 2 homes and 2 equal parents worked best for our family. I’m so happy that I had this opportunity to learn, grow and be a better parent.

As a mediator, I see parent’s struggle with this decision every day. It’s about what works for your children, your schedule and you as parents. It’s sad to see parents with the best of intentions just have different ideas about what is in their children’s best interests. I have seen many parents in a similar position to me step up in a 50/50 shared parenting arrangement. I have also seen parents who didn’t feel this would work for their family or were just not able to do it. It’s important to note that there are also many other ways to share parenting time between the 50/50 and 90/10 you hear about most. A parenting schedule that works for your family is the right one.

Some parents are just better separate. Some families are happier apart. Sometimes children do better when the parents are focused on them and not all of the “other” issues that go along with being in a significant relationship that isn’t working.

The one thing I can tell you, and tell you strongly…don’t make parenting decisions about the child support. Make them about your children!

You may be pleasantly surprised at how well the children can do if you are both there for them to the extent you can be.


Free event – SO, YOU ARE SEPARATED… Now What?
Feb 18th, 2017 by Families First Mediation





  • How do you deal with a difficult ex?
  • What does your new family life look like?
  • How do you help your child/ren live in two homes?
  • What to do when you don’t agree on the parenting?

Please join us for an open discussion as we provide answers to these questions & more.

THURSDAY March 9th, 2017

6:00 P.M. – 8:00 P.M. 

Oshawa Library – McLaughlin Branch

65 Bagot St., Oshawa


 Admission is FREE and advance registration is required.

Register by contacting or 416-518-1569 TODAY!

Brought to you by: Families First Mediation & Side by Side Supervised Access Services.



A Family Is A Family – LGBTQ & Divorce Mediation
Feb 10th, 2017 by Families First Mediation

LGBTQ families and Divorce Mediation – Support for ALL families.

I had an interesting comment conveyed to me the other day and it got me thinking – yes even on a Friday 🙂

I was reviewing a flyer and wanted to make sure that the wording was inclusive. I had a concern that the way something was worded could be perceived as only relating to a male-female, mom-dad family. I wanted to ensure that my LGBTQ clients would not be or feel left out. (I am not excluding grandparents, step parents or anyone else acting in place of a parent. This flyer was intended for parenting after separation or divorce and specific issues related to that.)

The response was not a concern about the change of wording but the comment “I didn’t know that you mediated with LGBTQ clients”. Of course I do. Why wouldn’t I? “I didn’t see it on your website.”

A family is a family. No two families are the same and each has their own special circumstances. It never occurred to me to single out any specific family type and let them know that yes, I did support them. I thought by not excluding anyone, I was including everyone. Perhaps that needed clarity, I’d honestly not thought about it.

Here’s what I can say and am comfortable saying. I love working with families. During separation and divorce, I love helping them move forward. I love hearing how they are all different – their values, beliefs, how they became a family, how to raise children and how those roles can change after separation or divorce.

I don’t care if a couple is common-law or married, same sex or not. I don’t care if there are multiple parents, step-parents, grandparents, sperm donors, surrogates, adoptions or any other combination of features within a family.

Each family I work with, shares their own unique story with me. For that I am always respectful and grateful that they trust me enough to do that.

Hoping to add some clarity – Families First Mediation supports ALL families.

Julie Gill Q.Med, CDFA

Owner and Principal Mediator

Families First Mediation


Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt Divorce No Longer Public
Jan 10th, 2017 by Families First Mediation

In a National Post article today I read that Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt have announced that they will now be handling their divorce privately, which I am so happy to hear. Read the article here:

Celebrity or not, divorce should be private. Well, that’s my feeling anyways. As a family mediator I work with couples every day going through this really tough life transition.

I truly understand the need for support during this time and the need for some details to get shared with the appropriate people. Support is one thing, publicizing your divorce details is quite another.

I know some couples will do it to try to get an advantage, to have friends and family take sides or to shift some of the guilt and anger they feel. These are emotional reactions to hurt. They are not however focused on moving forward, the children or even the individuals best interests.

Angelina and Brad have found a process that works for them and say they are committed to act as a united front going forward. I always say to my clients, “You got into this together, get out of it together” – I think this is more often than not, the most effective way for families to move through a separation.

This is not a time for gossip. There are children involved and their right to be protected, supported and cared for should be paramount. Congratulations to Angelina and Brad for putting the focus back on the children and now handling their divorce privately.

Julie Gill Q.Med, CDFA

Owner and Principal Mediator

Families First Mediation



Our Home or Yours
Dec 4th, 2016 by Families First Mediation

 Our Home or Yours – Family Mediation in our home (office) or your home, now available in the Durham Region!

Link to Press Release HERE

pic-12 pic-13



Our Office




Families First Mediation continues to look for ways to make mediation more accessible to the Durham Region Community. I don’t want mediation to remain the best kept secret!

Since 2009 when I opened my mediation practice here in Whitby I have added to my services to support the needs of both families and the community.

I have found that more and more families are looking for solutions to better and more conveniently help them with their Elder Care issues, Blended Family Conflict, Marriage communication troubles as well as divorce.

In addition to the most familiar Separation and Divorce mediation, I provide Separation Coaching and Financial Support, Blended Family mediation, Parent-Teen mediation, Marriage mediation, Family Business mediation and of course with my upcoming new designation – Elder Care mediation.

While I treat my office as my home-away-from-home and believe that it has a very homey feel, it’s just not the right option for some families. For those families I will now be available to meet in their home.

Maybe it’s babysitting that’s hard to put in place, maybe you don’t do stairs, maybe you are physically unable to leave your home, maybe there are too many people to meet in my office or maybe you would just feel more comfortable in your own home. The reasons are many and they are as unique as you are. Whatever your reason I am happy to visit with you in your home if you feel that’s it’s a better fit.

This initiative is one of a kind and available to families in the Durham Region.

I’m so excited to provide this new offering and help make mediation the norm vs. the best kept secret. Please help me share my new Our Home Or Yours Initiative!

Julie Gill Q.Med, CDFA

Owner and Principal Mediator

Families First Mediation

Press Release December 5, 2016

Changing Your Parenting Plan – FREE Workshop in Oshawa Sept 15, 2016
Sep 6th, 2016 by Families First Mediation

Your parenting plan is a living breathing document. It can change with the needs of your family and your children. These conversations need to happen and they are often challenging.

Debbie Miles-Senior from Side By Side Supervised Access Services and Julie Gill of Families First Mediation & join forces to help you answer the questions:

  • Why would I need to change my parenting plan?
  • Why are these changes so difficult and how do we make the changes?
  • What if we don’t agree?
  • How involved should children be?
  • Whose plan is it anyway?

Please join us for an open discussion as we provide answers to these questions and others.

Children Change - Flyer Parenting Plans


Child Custody Battles And A Broken System
Mar 10th, 2016 by Families First Mediation

Custody battles are difficult enough but within a broken system they are doomed to be more damaging to families.

custody battle

Here is a link to a post in the Toronto Sun today by Michele Mandel.

Judge blasts warring parents who squandered $500,000 on custody battle

I thank both Michele and Judge Alex Pazaratz for bringing attention to this story. Stories like this; often on a smaller financial scale, occur everyday!

While I appreciate Judge Pazaratz saying “Our family court system has zero tolerance for this type of emotional abuse of children” this couple spent $500k between them fighting within that very same system!

We need continued conversations and a lot more action focused at changing the system.

  • Changes have to be made at the beginning of the process.
  • Parents need to be educated on the alternatives and I don’t just mean at the MIP.
  • Parents need to be educated on what the real cost of long custody battles is to their kids and themselves.
  • Mediators need to get better about bringing awareness of mediation as a solution (Yes, we can do high conflict as well).
  • We need a team approach that makes it cost effective for parents to access lawyers, mediators, and social workers in order to make informed and reasonable decisions
  • We need to find a safe way to bring the children’s voice into the process.
  • We need lawyers to be educated on how to de-escalate their clients.
  • We need reality checks! Spending $500k fighting about the best interests of your child just can’t be in the best interests of your child.

I understand the need to fight, I truly do. My ex husband took me to court to fight for sole custody and primary care of our 2 children. I did fight back in order to get shared custody and 50/50 shared parenting. We had different ideas about what was in the best interests of our children and I see that in my office all of the time. I can tell you that the legal process destroyed our ability to go forward and positively co-parent. It was all about my rights and his rights and not about the rights of my children to have 2 parents that would continue to care for them.

My question is this…

Did the Family Court System and their zero tolerance, fail these parents?

These parents did not spend this kind of money without lawyers and other supporting professionals. This process took years to develop. There should have been a process to derail them.

We know people are going to fight and we know people are going to be unreasonable. But knowing that, how can we save them from themselves?

Julie Gill Q.Med, CDFA

Families First Mediation

How Will Your Children Remember Your DIVORCE?
Oct 26th, 2015 by Families First Mediation

Do you know the answer to the question – How will your children remember your divorce? It’s an important question and unless your children are very young they will remember it. If they are very young they will grow up with the tension or friendliness that you created during your divorce process.

couple fighting in front of kid

You have all heard the stories; fathers that have limited access to their children, parents that don’t pay support, couples that are in and out of court each time the children are brought back from a visit late, tens of thousands of dollars in legal fees and several years have passed only to end up with an agreement that doesn’t meet anyone’s needs…especially the children.

What is the common mistake that most of these parents made?

They ended up in a battle to see who would win!

(Do you think perhaps they lost focus on what was really important? The children?)

Many times differences, mistrust, emotions and/or the inability to communicate cause parents to lose focus on the children’s needs. It is essential during a divorce to separate the adult relationship issues from the parenting issues.

Know Your Goals

Do you want to reduce conflict and confusion for your children?

Do you want to keep some of the family money to be used for your new lives instead of costly legal battles?

Do you want to encourage a good relationship between your children and your ex?

Do you want to be able to go to your children’s extra-curricular activities, graduation and wedding without shooting daggers at your ex? Do you really want to make these exciting events stressful for your children?

Know Your Options

First and foremost, get informed. Read what you can on the internet, there is a great deal of information available. Use your local library as a resource. Visit the Family Law Information Centre available at many of the court houses. Schedule a consultation with a lawyer. Part of knowing your options is knowing your rights and those of your children.

Will it be a friendly divorce where you can work through the issues at the kitchen table? Perhaps a do-it-yourself kit available online will do the trick or you’d like to file the papers yourself. The advantage of course is the cost. However, it can be time consuming, confusing and frustrating.

Can you sort some or all of the issues out by yourselves? Maybe mediation is the best fit for your family. The advantages are that you pay only one professional, you have complete control over the decisions, you set the pace and it is less stressful than court. Mediation allows you to have the legal process as a fall back. This is often not a suitable option if there are significant power imbalances or domestic violence.

Maybe you feel that you are not able to negotiate with your ex-partner and require a lawyer to handle everything but you don’t want to go to court. Collaborative lawyers can help you both work through your issues under an agreement that you will not go to court. This can be less stressful and less costly than the traditional lawyer-lawyer negotiation process. If you do not however resolve your issues and you wish to proceed to court you must retain new lawyers.

And of course there is always the combative court process for divorce. Does the story below sound familiar?

Parents who spent tens of thousands of dollars on lawyers that didn’t get along. They ended up in court several times only to get adjourned with no resolution to their issues. They lost any remnants of kindness that they once had for each other. They have a great deal of legal debt and are uncertain about their financial future. They are so stressed that they have lost a great deal of weight without ever having to go to the gym!

Did you listen carefully as they told you about how difficult it was for the kids?  Mom and Dad fighting all of the time, not knowing whose house they were going to sleep at, who they could say what to or who was going to take them to hockey and swimming lessons.

The reality is that there is no one-size fits all divorce because each family and each set of circumstances is different. What works for your family may not work for another.

Creating a parenting plan, by any means, as a first step in your separation is vital to a successful separation. Staying focused on your children allows you to start communicating and making decisions within the boundaries of your new relationship.

Normally lack of trust and emotions factor into how detailed a parenting plan should be. The less trust between the parents, the more detailed the plan should be. Both parents should have a voice and communicate directly regarding what is best for the children.

Once your parenting responsibilities are sorted you can move on more successfully with other aspects of your separation.

Create a divorce transition plan that works for your family. There is no right or wrong way to go about that, plans can be as unique as your family.

How will your children remember your divorce? Well, it’s up to you. Making positive choices during your divorce is the biggest success factor for how well your children handle and remember the transition.

Julie Gill Q.Med, CDFA

Owner and Principal Mediator

Families First Mediation

Conflict Preparedness For Youth- Are We Just Hoping They Will Learn These Skills?
Sep 10th, 2015 by Families First Mediation

Teaching youth to better manage conflict are not skills that are being taught, unless there has already been a problem. We are reactive. Are these skills that we hope young people gain through life experiences and by watching us adults model them. Is hope enough? Let’s be proactive about teaching these skills instead.

I was recently on a radio show discussing Youth and Conflict and I’ve had some great feedback. It would seem that I’m not alone in thinking that if we spent any time training our youth how to communicate, engage in conflict in a positive manner and negotiate that we might just see better results.

You can listen to it here


This isn’t about placing blame. Are the schools failing our kids? Are we as parents not doing enough to help them manage through these tough years? Is anyone really listening to our youth?

This is about finding a way to fill the gap that so obviously exists. Aren’t we all curious how we ended up going from the youth that we were to the responsible adults that we are today? Do we even think about how many lessons that we learned the hard way? Shouldn’t we be thinking of ways to teach our youth based on our experiences?

I know, it looks like all I have are questions. But questions are a great place to start! The BIG question is What do our Youth think would help them navigate conflict better?

We see youth in conflict managed poorly every day…we see bullying, fights, criminal charges, suspensions, withdrawals, mental health issues and sadly suicide. Before you ask, I don’t believe that opening a dialogue about problem solving or managing conflict is going to change all of this. I do however believe that there is an opportunity to change some of this.

  • Instead of being so critical of our youth, let’s be supportive of their strengths.
  • Instead of managing everything for them, let’s be there to guide them (or catch them) when they try to problem solve on their own.
  • Instead of dictating what they will do, when they will do it and how they will do it, let’s ask them for their input.
  • Instead of talking at them, let’s try listening to them.

I was asked to talk about this topic because I faciliate a workshop for Youth called RESOLVE – Conflict Preparedness for Youth. It creates dialogue around relationships, respect, power imbalances, and boundaries while helping teach communication skills as well as Conflict management.

I was asked why I thought my approach was effective. My answer is simple. I think any approach is effective! These are not skills that are being taught. These are skills that we hope young people gain through life experiences and by watching us adults model them. Is hope enough?

I think we need to empower the Youth and give them a voice. I’m sure we will be pleasantly surprised by what we hear.

Julie Gill, QMed, CDFA

Owner of Families First Mediation

Ashley Madison – A Time For Some Difficult Family Conversations
Aug 21st, 2015 by Families First Mediation

“I think it’s time to bring the personal family issues of the leaked Ashley Madison users back into the private world. No media, no courts, just families having these difficult conversations in a safe environment.”

Everyone feels they have a right to judge, not sure why but they do. The focus right now should be on minimizing risk to the families involved. Not just debating the legal and moral positions of the site and hackers.

Am I condoning cheating? No

Am I condoning the hackers blackmailing, bullying and sharing private information? No

Do I think people are seeing the families behind those leaked names? No

Ok, so we all know what Ashley Madison represents – feel free to think what you want about the people that join and pay for a membership.  I can tell you though as a Family Mediator that we have no idea what goes on in other people’s homes and/or in other people’s relationships. And really, why should we?

Perhaps these members have an open relationship. Perhaps they are separated and living together for convenience. Perhaps it was a joke or a joint effort by a couple to see what the site was all about. Perhaps it was cheating, pure and simple.

The hack does not end with user names being released, that is just the beginning. I’m concerned about the family fallout. What is going to happen with those couples and families now? Some very difficult conversations for sure. Those conversations may bring about some ugly truths, mistrust and some very real changes in their lives. These people can be mothers, fathers, children or grandparents and all of their extended family will now be involved in their personal lives, and let’s be clear, it is their personal lives.

I think it’s time to bring their personal family issues back into the private world. No media, no courts, just families having these conversations in a safe environment.

As a private and confidential process, maybe it’s time for the mediation process to shine. An opportunity for these families to have difficult conversations and for us as mediators to help them find a way to move forward.

Julie Gill Q.Med, CDFA

Owner & Principal Mediator

Families First Mediation


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