What is Family Mediation?
Separation from someone you've previously loved is undoubtedly one of the most difficult times of your life. Emotions are often heightened and stress can be debilitating, sometimes leaving you reactionary and frustrated with each other. Family mediation, also known as Family Dispute Resolution, helps you with this process.
Mediation is an intermediary step which, when both parties are prepared to negotiate, can minimise disputes and navigate a win-win for both parents. In family matters it must always be kept top of mind that the silent third party is your children.
Like Lawyers, Mediators can help you come to important and difficult agreements, only they do so outside of the court and with much less expense.
Mediators work in many fields, but in relation to family disputes they can also assist with
- Property Settlement
- Parenting Arrangements
- Spousal Maintenance
- Other Financial Settlements
- Private Child Support Agreements
If you engage a mediator for family disputes it is best to employ the services of a registered Family Dispute Resolution Practitioner (FDRP). While other mediators can resolve disputes adequately, the FDRP is trained, experienced and accredited in family matters and they are best qualified to help you.
Only an FDR practitioner can issue a section 60i which is needed to apply to the Court should mediation not be successful.
What happens in mediation?
During mediation everything you say to the mediator which is not said in front of the other remains confidential and can only be disclosed to the other party with your prior consent. During the mediation you will each be given time to speak, one at a time and respond to the other party without interruption. The mediator will alternate between you so you will each be given equal time.
The mediation process will include
- Initial information and reading material
- Intake Interview (usually 2 hours)
- Mediation (usually 4-6 hours)
- Formalising the agreement
Your mediator is highly trained in family disputes and they will
- Assure confidentiality
- Be impartial
- Be free from judgement
- Ensure neither party is feeling pressured, bullied or coerced.
- Aim to facilitate effective communication between the parties
In successful mediation the mediator will help you write up a plan and formalise your agreement. Part of that agreement is dedicated to what to do if the mediated terms are not being met. Usually this is detailed in communication strategies, or you may choose to utilise mediation again in the future to keep you on track.
Having realistic expectations of the mediation process will help you reach an agreement faster and with less stress.
Prior to attending your intake interview, consider the following questions.
- What are the key issues that bring you to mediation?
- What have you done to resolve this?
- Who are the key stakeholders in this mediation?
- Extended family
- Step family
- What is my most desired outcome to come from this mediation?
- What am I prepared to negotiate on?
- What am I not prepared to negotiate on?
- In what way will my choices positively improve the lives of the children? (if any)
- In what way may my choices negatively impact the children? (if any)
- How will my choices impact the other parent?
If you haven’t already undertaken the Parenting After Separation course, I suggest you do so prior to coming to mediation.
What is child inclusive mediation?
Child inclusive mediation uses a qualified child consultant to meet with your children and assesses what their thoughts and feelings are in relation to the changing family dynamic. This helps you as parents to hear the voice of your children in a way which is sensitive, impartial and non judgmental.
Child inclusive mediation does not ask your children which parent they want to live with. The trained practitioner seeks only to discover what experiences your child is having with the intention of being able to express those to you, the parents. In some cases, it's the first time parents really hear what it is their children are trying to say.
Your mediator will make an assessment during the intake interview and discuss if this may be a suitable option for you. Like all mediation, it's voluntary.
Do I need legal advice?
Family separations can be difficult and complex. You do not have to have legal representation, however it is recommended that you consult with a lawyer regarding your available options. Legal advice will help you to have realistic expectations of what is achievable through the mediation process.
What if we can’t agree?
You, the parents, are the experts in parenting your children and are the best people to determine their best interests.
However if you can’t agree, or if your matter is considered not suitable for mediation, a section 60i Certificate will be issued in order for you to attend court.
Prior to your appointment
- Seek legal advice if you wish to do so
- Consider if you need a support person to attend the mediation
- Gather any / all relevant documents relating to your dispute (including any current parenting orders or legally enforceable documents such as domestic violence orders)
- Gather any documentation regarding the children, such as current psychological reports or school reports relevant to the dispute (if any)
- Make suitable childcare arrangements so you can be free to focus.
For information on property mediation, click here.