Peacemakers In Family Law – Trailblazing Change

Mediator Peacemaker of the Year, 2021

On the 8th of October, I was honoured on behalf of Parenting After Separation, with the title of ‘Mediator Peacemaker of the Year, 2021’. These inaugural awards were hosted by the Dispute Resolution Centre Australia and recognised the trailblazers in dispute resolution. 

I’ve often considered myself a little fish that swims against the tide in family law. I don’t belong to a large firm and I built my business and mediation practice from scratch, with very few connections. But oh, how it’s grown! 

For many years, even before becoming a mediator, I have agitated for change and for a less adversarial system for parents. It has always been my mission to support parents in a more practical way before things get out of hand resulting in the use of the court system. 

So how does someone become named a Peacemaker in what is described as ‘the battleground’ of family law? 

Like all conflicts and disagreements, having the capacity and willingness to take perspective is the key to finding solutions. For parents embroiled in a conflict that capacity for perspective can be, or can feel, elusive and so this is where mediators can be very impactful in finding a path to move forward. 

There is a raft of complex emotions that come with separation and divorce because the disputes parents face are highly tied very closely with the things they hold closest to their hearts; the children. Of course, there are often other significant decisions to be made regarding finances and property settlements as well as children. 

As a Family Dispute Resolution Practitioner, it’s the role of the mediator to maintain neutrality and to help the parties find a pathway to a resolution that is fair to everyone, including the children. To the average person, this may seem like an impossibility but I think that’s because our role is often misunderstood.

While we are empathetic and considerate in our interactions, being a peacemaker is not a passive role. It’s one that often challenges narratives and beliefs. It’s a role that sometimes means being prepared to roll up your sleeves and rumble with really difficult conversations. 

In order to support each parent, there are times where we have to challenge beliefs and sometimes behaviours that have come about because of those beliefs. It’s an important part of our job as we have a responsibility to both so that each can speak freely, be heard, and that they are open to hearing and absorbing what’s being said. 

A large part of our role is coaching our clients. In fact, one of our duties is to ensure parties are ready to mediate. It’s for this reason that we at Parenting After Separation have chosen to include pre-mediation coaching as part of our service. 

A peacemaker in family dispute resolution may challenge the way you think. They will aim to give you perspective and to help you find a pathway to being child-centered and solution-focused, rather than battle-ready. But we will always be doing our best to assist your family so that the children are the least impacted and that they can maintain a healthy, positive, and safe relationship with each parent.  

This quote perfectly describes my approach to peacemaking in family law. 

"Peacemaking doesn't mean passivity. It is the act of interrupting injustice without mirroring injustice, the act of disarming evil without destroying the evildoer, the act of finding a third way that is neither fight nor flight but the careful, arduous pursuit of reconciliation and justice"

Being named a Peacemaker could not give me more pride and joy. And having been honoured with this award tells me that Australia is ready for change and to find better resolutions for families. 

Jasmin Newman is a Family Dispute Resolution Practitioner, Parenting Coordinator, and Director of Parenting After Separation Courses.