- Family mediation is a useful resource that helps former spouses to resolve disputes that have arisen during their separation.
- Resolving disputes through mediation is encouraged in Australia’s family law system as it can be more cost-effective and is often successful.
- Being able to discuss and learn about each person’s position through mediation can help to foster an ongoing amicable relationship between former spouses.
What is family mediation?
Family mediation is a type of alternate dispute resolution (ADR) which is essentially a blanket term that describes the different processes that can be used to resolve disputes outside of court.
Family mediation is a process where people in conflict are facilitated by a neutral and impartial third party to help to resolve their dispute. The meditator’s role is to listen and identify the disputed issues and goals of each party and assist them to engage in discussions that will hopefully help to come to an agreement that resolves their dispute.
While the main goal of mediation is to resolve the disputes, other goals are to allow the parties to understand the disputes from each other’s perspectives to hopefully enable them to come to an agreement that they are both comfortable with.
Mediation and ADR are encouraged by the family law system in Australia rather than relying on courts to resolve disputes. And when it comes to parenting matters that need to be resolved, a genuine effort to resolve the dispute must be made through either family law mediation or Family Dispute Resolution (FDR) before the matter can progress to the Family Law Court system. There are exceptions to this such as if the matter is urgent or you or your child is in immediate danger.
Family Dispute Resolution (FDR) is a type of mediation conducted by an independent family dispute resolution practitioner and is specifically designed for separated families and encourages the parties to focus on the needs of their children to help in resolving these disputes.
What kinds of family law matters can be resolved using mediation?
As we mentioned earlier, disputes can arise over all kinds of matters between ex-spouses and/or separated parents. The good news is that family mediation can be useful in resolving a wide range of family law matters such as:
- Parenting arrangements, including custody and visitation schedules;
- Decision-making responsibilities (parental responsibility) for major issues affecting the child’s life (education, healthcare, religion, etc.);
- Resolving disputes regarding schooling choices or medical treatments for the child.
- Relocation of a parent or child;
- Communication and co-parenting strategies;
- Child support and financial provisions for the child’s upbringing; and
- Parental involvement in the child’s extracurricular activities or special events.
- Division of assets, such as real estate properties, bank accounts, investments, and vehicles.
- Allocation of debts and liabilities.
- Valuation and distribution of business interests or partnerships.
- Superannuation splitting between the parties.
- Determination of spousal maintenance payments.
- Consideration of any financial resources or inheritances received by either party.
- Preservation of assets or injunctions to prevent asset dissipation.
The above lists are only some of the different family law matters that family mediation could help to resolve. Every situation is unique, and we recommend talking to a family lawyer to see whether family law mediation is appropriate for you.
How long does family mediation take?
In terms of how long family mediation takes or how often you may need to participate in it, it really depends on the type of matter you’re trying to resolve, how complex it is, how willing the parties are to work together to resolve the conflict and the overall level of conflict that exists between the parties.
For some disputes, it may take less than a day to come to a resolution while others may take multiple days and may still end up requiring court intervention or further mediation sessions.
There’s no exact amount of time that mediation should take.
What happens if mediation doesn’t work?
If family mediation is unsuccessful the parties may wish to continue negotiations with each other. These could be private negotiations or negotiations with support from their lawyers.
The parties may also pursue the matter through the court, where a decision will be made by a judge. As part of the family mediation process, the parties are provided with a certificate that states that they have attended and participated in mediation, and this certificate makes it possible to make an application to have the matter heard by the court.
The parties may also wish to attempt mediation again in the future.
How to prepare for family mediation
Here are some things you should do to help prepare for family mediation:
Seek legal advice
Legal advice can help you understand your responsibilities, rights and obligations. It can also help you to understand all of the options you have available to you as well as the actual mediation process.
They can also ensure that you have the relevant information for your situation. And they can learn your goals to aid in the negotiation process.
Identify the key issues you want to discuss and resolve
It’s important to figure out exactly what it is that you want, what is truly important to you and think about any concerns you may have. Mediation is not only about reaching the resolution but the journey to get there. The journey to your resolution allows you to air your concerns to the other party and helps you to gain perspective, which can lead to better outcomes more suitable for both parties.
In parenting matters it’s important to think about what is best for your child. Decisions should be made with their best interests at the forefront.
For property and financial matters, it’s a good idea to have a master list of all property that needs to be considered, think about the items that you would like to retain and items that you may be flexible to let go of. It’s also very important to think about your future needs and not just what you want right now.
Approach with an open mind
Mediation is most successful when the parties can cooperate, and an open mind makes this possible. While you may have goals that you wish to achieve, it’s important to take the time to listen to the other party and understand their perspective.
You should expect that you will need to compromise otherwise the likelihood of having any success is very low.
Even when you approach with an open mind you may find the process challenging and confronting however, the mediator is trained to facilitate the process and make it easier to manage.
How Unified Lawyers Can Help You
Helping you resolve family law disputes is what we do at Unified Lawyers. Our family law team is experienced in a wide range of family law matters, and we can help you every step of the way. When it comes to family law mediation, we can provide you with legal advice, prepare you for mediation, represent you in mediation negotiations, and support you throughout the whole process of family mediation.
We have offices based in Brisbane, Melbourne and Sydney and also help people Australia-wide. Get started with us today by giving us a call on 1300 667 461 or booking a consultation online using the button below.
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