How Family Mediation has Changed Dramatically Since the COVID-19 Crisis

#LetsContinYU Series, Family Mediation

By Matthew McGrath

Family Mediators are professionals from a range of fields that work to affect positive change in the lives of children and adults and help families enduring difficult times move forward collaboratively. They help families resolve conflict in a practical, safe, and positive manner. But, like so many other industries, when the pandemic hit, family mediators had to adapt to the new normal and learn to serve their clients mainly online.

“Many family mediators have been doing this for years in our offices and then all of a sudden in mid-march we had to make the dramatic shift to speaking to our clients online and learning how to connect,” says Mary-Anne Popescu, an OAFM Accredited Family and Elder Mediator, and Child Protection Mediator, and contributing author to the book, Living Together, Separating, Divorcing: Surviving During a Pandemic.

The biggest challenge for family mediators now is to make a connection with people during online interactions – to reach them in their most difficult moments and try to engage with them. Family Mediators are finding ways to ensure that online venues are still a desirable way to resolve family conflict.  

Families in conflict are also experiencing the added stress of staying in place in their homes, as well as the anxieties that come with the pandemic. Worldwide calls to assaulted women’s, men’s and children’s helplines have experienced a huge surge over the past nine months. 

Family Mediators are trained specifically to deal with family’s in crisis, family’s experiencing change across their family structure, and, now, changes in adapting to the pandemic and staying in close social circles.

The Certificate in Family Mediation prepares students to work closely with families in conflict to help them work through disputes and identify fair and reasonable solutions. Upon graduating from the School of Continuing Studies’ program, students will have the practical experience, emotional intelligence, and expertise to help guide families through conflict safely, respectfully, and ensure an equal voice to all parties, helping to form lasting agreements. 

The School is offering The Certificate in Family Mediation for the first time this January – view our webpage to learn more!


Mary-Anne has served as the Executive Director of the Ontario Association for Family Mediation (OAFM) since 2015. As an OAFM Accredited Family and Elder Mediator, and Child Protection Mediator in private practice, she works to bring peaceful resolutions that have helped hundreds of families adapt to challenges and changes across the life cycle. Mary-Anne is a roster mediator for the Office of the Independent Police Review Director (OIPRD) and the Ministry of Government and Consumer Services. She also serves as an Assistant Trainer in the Elder Mediation program at OAFM. In 2020, in response to the global pandemic, Mary-Anne became a Certified Online Mediator.

Mary-Anne is passionate about promoting public access to justice, and has been a facilitator for the Home Court Advantage Summit, as well as the Legal Innovation Zone’s technology initiative to expand equitable access to alternative and non-adversarial services for families. Mary-Anne is a regular guest on the Mediation Station radio program and presenter at various institutions, including Elder Abuse Prevention Ontario, Canadian Domestic Homicide Prevention Initiative, Osgoode Hall Law School and the International Federation on Ageing. In 2020, Mary-Anne was a contributing author to the book, Living Together, Separating, Divorcing: Surviving During a Pandemic.