What to expect from family mediation
Family mediation is one of the most popular alternative dispute resolution methods. Being able to resolve disputes privately with the help of a third-party mediator is a great way to come to a mutual agreement without the need for costly court proceedings.
How family mediation works
Mediation is an informal alternative to litigation. It involves the use of a third-party mediator, who works alongside opposing parties to help them resolve their dispute and come to an agreement. They will typically listen to each party and determine the disputed issues, as well as the goals, needs and means available to deal with each issue.
Each party will be free to discuss their dispute with the other in a comfortable and confidential setting. The mediator will help guide the parties towards specific outcomes and try to get them to resolve the dispute out of the courtroom.
When it may be used
There are a range of family law matters that can be improved with the help of a mediator. These include:
- Child support issues
- Property disputes & other property matters
- Spousal maintenance
- Parenting and parental responsibility disputes; and
- Breaches of current orders.
Family mediation is the preferred alternative dispute resolution method in the family law sphere due to its effectiveness. Many courts will order parties to attempt family mediation before attending court.
How to prepare for it
Once family mediation has been confirmed, each party will be given information related to the mediation process as well as an agreement which must be signed prior to starting. This agreement will outline the expectations of both the mediator and the parties involved.
You will be invited to attend a conference explaining what to expect on the day of the family mediation. This will also give you the opportunity to voice any questions or concerns you may have. You should be told what documents and materials to bring on the day.
Ensure that you have thought out what matters you wish to discuss during the mediation along with what outcomes you want. You may wish to request the advice of an accountant or financial planner prior to the day in order to better understand your financial situation.
It may be a good idea to have your legal representative present during the mediation as they can provide you with legal advice. They will also be able to draft up any documents needed to finalise any agreements made.
The length of the mediation process will depend on the complexity of the dispute; it could last anywhere from half a day to a full day.
After the mediation
If the parties can come to an agreement, they will be given the option to formalise this with the help of lawyers. The mediator is unable to make the outcome binding.
If the parties cannot resolve their dispute, they may continue to negotiate personally, either directly or through their lawyers. Alternatively, they may be able to attempt family mediation again, try another type of alternative dispute resolution (such as arbitration), or go to court.