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

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


Family Mediation on the Radio – Why Would I Need A Mediator?
Feb 15th, 2015 by Families First Mediation

On December 28th 2014 I was pleased to be a guest on the radio program Mediation Station. Our topic was “Why Would I Need A Mediator?”

Mediation resolving conflict

So, I regularly have people say to me “Oh I am happily married, I would never need your services” or “if I take your card or friend you on Facebook someone will think I need your services”.

To these people I have a few questions…

“What if a family member was divorcing, would you rather see them in court losing their savings or privately sorting out their differences?” (Divorce Mediation)

“What if you are struggling with your siblings over selling your dad’s house during the process of moving him into a care facility?” (Elder Mediation)

“What if your son/daughter is in a new relationship with a partner who also has children and they are planning on moving in together? How will your grandchildren will be cared for?” (Family or Blended Family Mediation)

For all of the above situations a Family mediator could be amazingly helpful in creating transition plans and bridging the gaps in communication.

Life is about relationships, making connections, happiness…yes? I have devoted my practice to helping families transition their relationships during a time of stress. It is a very balanced and fair process that lets you stay in control. Staying focused on what really matters and helping you to move forward. What could be more positive than that?

Mediation is part of the solution, not part of the problem.

Having the knowledge that mediation exists may help you, a family member, friend or client in the future. Mediation really is your choice for POSITIVE change.

Listen now…


Julie Gill

Qualified Mediator & Certified Divorce Financial Analyst

Families First Mediation









DIVORCE – You Don’t Know What You Don’t Know!
Jan 19th, 2015 by Families First Mediation

Have you been divorced before?

If not, you probably don’t know where to start or what to do!

That is not uncommon.

Divorce - You Don't Know What You Don't Know

Divorce – You Don’t Know What You Don’t Know

I was sitting in the hospital today with my daughter trying to get her care. She was in a car accident a couple of weeks ago and is still struggling. Today the emergency doctor asked what has been happening since the accident and wanted to know why we were there. Although I knew what had led up to our hospital visit, the honest answer I gave him was “I just don’t know what to do”. That’s when it hit me. I sound just like my clients!!!! I just wanted help.

Does this sound familiar?

  • I don’t want to make a bad decision now that will cause harm in the future.
  • I don’t know what my next step should be.
  • I don’t know what professionals I need and how to get in touch with them.
  • I don’t want to miss anything.

Sounds like everyone going through a separation and/or divorce!

As confident as I am as a mediator that I can walk people through the process, their options and connect them with the right professionals – they don’t know me. I am asking them to put a lot of trust in me. Little old me.

Then I think about, how scary it is to be in a position that you never expected, you never planned and you have no idea how to manage.  Add to that the emotional turmoil, frustration and things not moving at the speed you would like and what do you have?  FEAR, plain and simple.

Only you can decide what is right for you. When I started typing “only you” all I could think about was “Only you can stop forest fires” haha, sorry back to the point. Gathering information, making sure that you are comfortable with the information you are being given and that you only act on the information that you feel is right is what will help alleviate that fear.

I think that those of use in the divorce industry need to get much better at helping people manage that fear. With information, with empathy and with empowerment.

We help people through a huge life transition and we have the power to make it a little easier and a little better. I really want to say A LOT better and A LOT easier but sometimes that is just wishful thinking no matter how could I am at my work.

Although you may not know what you DON’T know. You do know what you DO know and what you feel.

  • Question everything.
  • Only make informed decisions.
  • Do what you feel is right in your gut or your heart; whichever one you trust more.

Just make sure you are comfortable with the information that you have gathered, that you make the best decisions based on your situation and that you can move on without feeling that you missed something.

All I can do with my daughter is my best. All you can do through your separation is your best. And YES your best is good enough.

Julie Gill

Mediator and Owner

Families First Mediation

Durham Region, Ontario

Divorce: The Best Interests Of The Children…Or The Parents?
Sep 29th, 2014 by Families First Mediation

We hear it all of the time in the Divorce Industry – decisions should be made in the ‘Best interests of the Children”. Seems rather obvious right?



You and the other parent may have different opinions of what decisions are in your children’s best interest. You don’t agree and that’s ok. You were always going to disagree on some aspects of parenting even if you had stayed together.

You can both be looking out for your children’s best interests but believe that can be obtained in different ways. That doesn’t make either of your right or wrong, it’s just life.

Separation is change and how you manage it will dictate how successfully your children will get through it. Read the rest of this entry »

Can DIVORCE And FAIR Be Used In the Same Sentence?
Aug 22nd, 2014 by Families First Mediation

As a mediator and separation coach I hear this statement all of the time “this isn’t fair”.

As a person who went through a nasty divorce I myself thought many times “this isn’t fair”.

What is fair though? Fair to whom? Fairness is subjective and we each have our own idea of fairness. What I think is fair to me, may not what you think is fair.

Life is not fair




  I read this quote today and I thought it was very appropriate for this blog post,

“Fairness is protecting not only you but all who are involved.”

  Well that is a tall order!

  Protect yourself – Yup, got it.

  Protect your kids – No problem there.

  Protect your ex – Wait, what? No thank you.


Read the rest of this entry »

The Cost Of Care – Canada Sees An Increase In Senior Caregivers
May 20th, 2014 by Families First Mediation

Author: Rubab Abid,
Published Sunday, May 11, 2014 10:15PM EDT

Elder Mediation and Caregiver Support

Elder Mediation and Caregiver Support

With an aging Canadian population and the increasing cost of nursing homes, the number of Canadian seniors providing at-home care to elderly patients has increased in recent years.

In the last decade, the number of senior caregivers across the country has grown from eight per cent to 12 per cent – a looming issue among an increasingly aging Canadian society.

For Roy Warren, taking care of his 92-year-old wife Tamara is a labour of love.

Roy, who is 89, spends his days feeding, bathing and taking care of Tamara from their home in Kitchener, Ont.

“After her breakfast, I change her diaper and give her a sponge bath,” Roy said in an interview with CTV News.

Roy and Tamara met in 2002 and married late in life.

Tamara, who was University of Waterloo’s first vice-president and was named to the Order of Canada, fell ill soon after their wedding.

After suffering a fall, Tamara’s eye sight began to worsen and she began losing her memory.

She relies on Roy to help take care of her growing medical needs as she is now completely blind and bedridden.

Tamara says the idea of going to a nursing home and being away from Roy is too much to bear.

“I just couldn’t face going to a nursing home,” Tamara said.

Support workers from the local Community Care and Access Centre (CCAC) drop by the Warren’s home throughout the week to help Roy take care of his wife.

Christine Rupert, a CCAC occupational health worker who co-ordinates care for the couple, says Roy is determined to take care of Tamara in any way he can.

“It is such a big duty. Such a big task and he does it so well,” Rupert said.

“They are very much committed. They are very much in love. For some families it is very much an expectation. They know that is part of being a couple, of being a family,” she added.

While Roy is grateful for the extra help from CCAC, which totals about 90 hours per month, he is left to take care of Tamara on his own on evenings and weekends.

“I can do it for evenings, weekends, and at the end of the weekend…I am pretty well paved out…you get edgy and tolerances drop,” he said.

“And those four day weekends, when you have a holiday, it’s pretty hard deal for me,” he said.

Roy said he would love to get extra help on the weekend, but he has reached his limit for government-sponsored home care and can’t afford to hire help on his own.

Dr. Janice Keefe, a gerontology expert from Mount St. Vincent University, says Roy’s predicament is similar to many elderly Canadians who are struggling with at home care services.

“We have an aging population, it is not going away,” Keefe told CTV News. “We have to prepare for a future where people can live in their homes as long as possible.”

“We cannot afford individuals to all be in long term care facilities or hospital,” she said.

“In the future, there will be more spousal caregivers, they will live together longer in that spousal relationship and you may end up with two people both needing care, but not necessarily wanting to seek out because they tend to try and compensate for each other,” she said.

Ray says his health is good and that, aside from some arthritis and a hearing problem, he is able to take care of Tamara for the time being.

“It’s a relationship and a love story – how it should be,” he said.

See original content here: CTV News 

See how mediation can help with caregiver support and difficult family conversations.



Why Is Mediation The Best Kept Secret?
Mar 3rd, 2014 by Families First Mediation

As a Mediator my role is to help people communicate through conflict, to find resolutions to problems and to actively participate in decisions.

Mediation is a fair, safe and balanced process that ensures everyone has a voice. It’s less costly than the legal process and much more efficient in most cases.

Yet I still wonder daily why mediation is not as common place as counselling or lawyers? People in conflict tend to call a counsellor (to deal with the emotional side) or a lawyer (to deal with the legal side). A mediator helps deals with the practical side of conflict which is often where the biggest problems occur. Read the rest of this entry »

Helping Talk About Senior Care
Nov 6th, 2013 by Families First Mediation

I taped my weekly show, We Need To Talk on Rogers TV Durham last week about Senior Care. Now I’ve been in the position to care for both my children and my parents at the same time – it’s tough.  I have been stuck in the middle and felt totally alone.

As I continue my training on Mediation with Age Related issues and build out that side of my practice I encounter more and more people like myself. Caregivers that just need someone to help them rally the family around decision making.

It’s difficult to know just what to do and say.

How do you find the right support for your aging parent?

How do you start the conversation with your family?

How do you manage responsibilities and finances?

Honestly, I can’t tell you just how positive the role of a Family Mediator can be in these situations. Having someone from the outside to help facilitate discussions and make sure everyone in the family has a voice can go a long way to helping you feel less alone and get the support that is needed for your loved one.

Here is the blog post with information about the show We Need To Talk About…Senior Care.

Julie Gill

Owner & Principal Mediator

Families First Mediation


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