Canadian Journal of Family Law

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Mediation is a centerpiece in the ‘agreement culture’ around family law litigation. It is recognized by the courts as offering inherent protections to deal with challenging cases such as those involving intimate partner violence. To learn more about how mediators invoke and view the process’s protections, we conducted a series of interviews with senior mediators, trainers, and policymakers in the field. This article synthesizes current views within the mediation field about how to identify and screen for IPV, and implications for process management. At the heart of these interviews was the theme of mediator discretion: mediators describe and value discretion as endemic to the assessment of a person’s capacity and agency— to the assessment of contextual factors which may affect decision-making, engagement, and outcome. This article summarizes interview data around practical issues, such as how to navigate screening conversations, and also broader tensions surrounding the mediator’s work, such as the need to balance impartiality with capacity-building inside a process designed to help parties prepare for the future.