Family Innocence is a non-profit dedicated to keeping families out of court: resolving conflicts and injustices peacefully. Our primary focus is supporting the family community by facilitating restorative circles and mediation among family members. Our network of judges, attorneys, mediators, restorative circle facilitators, professionals, parents, advocates and volunteers — most of whom have been through family court themselves — are dedicated to keeping family members out of the court adversarial system. Our mediators are Rule 114 qualified. Our organization is on the list of providers of Alternative Dispute Resolution courses.
Family Innocence was founded in 2011 by attorney Michelle MacDonald, who practiced mediation and family law. Within a year, the Family innocence Process was developed, a model where separating or separated family members with a conflict pledge not to sue each other in court (or to suspend an existing lawsuit). Family Innocence developed an original, innovative and unique process of conflict resolution for separating or separated family members contemplating divorce that can be implemented before they involve courts in their family matters’ including a Family Innocence advocate, mediation and decision-making process. In 2019, Family Innocence created a new model of mediation – restorative circle mediation, lead by Michelle MacDonald and other faculty, including Judges, attorneys, mediators, restorative practitioners, psychologists, doctors, teachers, family members, professionals and consumers. The course was approved for 46 hours for Family Law/ Facilitative Hybrid and domestic abuse training. Family Innocence graduated over 30 participants in 2020 and 2021 to add to our resources. We now have a small platoon ready to restore families!
Family innocence’s restorative circle mediation model facilitates communication among family members by implementing a listening exercise, and use of a talking piece and peacemaking dialogue, where everyone can speak and be heard, closing each circle session with written agreed actions. We provide a community of co-facilitators and volunteer family innocence advocates to support family members.
The restorative justice circle process ultimately teaches participants a method of communication that can be implemented anywhere in their lives to resolve any conflict peacefully. Participation is affordable for everyone due to nominal orientation and participation fees, discount hourly rates, flat fees, and a modest means program made possible by the professionals, restorative circle facilitators, mediators, and attorneys on the roster, leaving greater resources for the family. The emphasis is on education and conflict resolution before any court action is taken.