By Evelyn Thompson, Family Law Clerk

I recently attended a Mandatory Information Program session, also known as a “MIP”.  I was on a fact-finding mission.  I wanted to experience, first-hand, the basic information that is given to both parties so I might better prepare my clients as to what they could expect.  What surprised me, though, was how overwhelming all that information must be to absorb to someone who already has a great deal going on in their life.

The primary purpose of a Mandatory Information Program is to provide early information for separating spouses and their children.  Knowledge is key and understanding that you may have an alternative to a lengthy Court battle may give you back some of the control you might feel has been missing in your world recently. 

In 2011, MIP was expanded to all Family Court sites in Ontario.  While this program may be new to Simcoe County, it has been successfully implemented for several years in Toronto. 

Tom Dart, a partner in our family law department, has posted two very thorough and easy-to-follow articles that give detailed information about the content of these sessions.

In Simcoe County and the District of Muskoka, The Mediation Centre in Barrie is responsible for providing the program.  In the very short time since the implementation of MIP, they have taken the initiative to offer the program on-line.  MIP is a scripted session.  As a result, the information you receive at a MIP in Orillia, Barrie, or on-line is the same.

If you recently became a “participant” in Ontario’s family justice system, I encourage you to embrace both the intent and content of this program.  Here are a few suggestions which may help:

  • DO come prepared and on time.  Bring a pen and your Notice, which has a Certificate of Attendance to be completed by the person conducting the session.  There is a handout given to each attendee so if you miss writing something down, don’t worry.
  • DON’T take a friend.  This isn’t a social event and whispering can be very distracting.  Also, due to the number of people who are required to attend this program and local scheduling, seating is limited. 
  • DON’T take your children, either.  A MIP can take 1½ to 2 hours to complete.
  • DO keep an open mind.  You might find that one nugget of advice that will help you to understand the emotions you may be feeling or to adjust to the variety of changes you may be experiencing in your life.
  • DON’T think of this program as some sort of punishment.  It’s not detention and you’re not being singled out.  There are some exceptions but, basically, anyone who is a party in a contested family case has to attend.
  • DO take the time to review the list of resources you will be provided.  One of the organizations on that list may help you, your children or your former spouse
  • DON’T panic if you can’t attend on the date scheduled for you but DO contact the Family Law and Information Centre to reschedule as soon as possible.

A MIP is not meant to provide you with specific advice about your family situation.  You should speak to a lawyer about your situation.