Disputes and conflict are all too common in family law matters. These disputes often arise from the complexities of family relationships and unique personal circumstances, and it can feel impossible to find a solution sometimes.
When disagreements occur in family law matters, finding a solution can happen in a wide variety of ways including privately, through the Court system, with legal assistance, and through family law mediation services.
While each option has its pros and cons, not every option will work for everyone. For example, sometimes it isn’t safe for the parties to engage one another privately due to the presence of family violence. And those seeking resolution through the courts can find the process time-consuming, emotionally draining, and financially burdensome.
To address these challenges, the Australian family law system has embraced the alternative dispute resolution approach known as family law mediation. This process aims to provide a collaborative and amicable path for families to resolve disputes while minimising the negative impact on all members involved.
Keep reading to learn more about mediation in family law matters.
What is family law mediation?
Family law mediation is a voluntary or court ordered confidential process designed to assist separating or divorced couples in resolving their disputes with the help of a neutral third party, known as a mediator.
The mediator facilitates open communication, promotes understanding, and guides the parties toward reaching mutually agreeable solutions. Family law mediation can be used to find a solution for a variety of matters, whether it’s to manage one area of the separation process, such as the property settlement or to help find an effective solution for all matters that may arise, like parenting arrangements, property division, and financial settlements.
Working together through family law mediation can allow the parties to have more control over the outcome of their situation as well as help to make the transition during and after separation a lot smoother for all family members.
In most cases, mediation may is actually required before a matter will be heard in court by a Judge.
What are the benefits of family law mediation?
We briefly touched on some of the benefits of mediation in resolving family law matters, however, there are a wide range of benefits, including:
The participants can have more control and autonomy
One of the primary advantages of family law mediation is that it allows the parties to retain control over the outcome. Unlike court proceedings where decisions are handed down by a judge, mediation empowers the participants to make decisions that best suit their unique circumstances and needs.
It can save money
Mediation is generally more cost-effective than going to court. It reduces legal fees, court costs, and related expenses, making it an attractive option for individuals seeking to manage their finances during a challenging period.
It can take a lot less time to resolve matters
Mediation is often a faster process compared to traditional court proceedings, which can drag on for months or even years. Mediation sessions can be scheduled at the convenience of the parties, allowing for quicker resolution.
It can help to maintain relationships between parties and family members
Family law mediation emphasises open communication and cooperation, which can help preserve relationships, particularly when there are children involved. Maintaining a positive relationship between parents is crucial for the well-being of the children.
It’s a confidential process
Mediation proceedings are confidential, providing a safe environment for parties to express their concerns and explore potential solutions without fear of public disclosure. This also allows a party to propose a compromised solution without fear that if a final agreement isn’t reached they can be held to it in the future.
It fosters communication
This is an important part of the process as sometimes the parties are in dispute over relatively minor matters but have not been in a situation where they feel comfortable enough to express their concerns and feel heard. Having an impartial third party to facilitate the conversation can provide more insight to both parties.
What is the process of family law mediation in Australia?
The mediation process may differ somewhat depending on your situation and location, however, generally mediation follows a structured process designed to guide parties toward a resolution.
Here’s a step-by-step overview:
- Initial consultation: Parties interested in mediation typically attend an initial consultation with a mediator. During this meeting, the mediator explains the process, discusses the parties’ issues, and assesses whether mediation is suitable for their situation.
- Preparation for mediation: Each party may be asked to provide relevant documents and information before the mediation session. This could include financial records, parenting plans, and any other relevant details.
- Mediation session/s: Mediation often involves a series of sessions during which the parties, along with the mediator, discuss their concerns, needs, and potential solutions. The mediator facilitates productive communication, helps identify common ground, and assists in generating options for resolution.
- Agreements: If the parties are able to reach an agreement on all or some of the issues, the parties can decide between keeping their agreement informal or formalising it by submitting it to the court for approval. Once approved, the agreement becomes legally binding.
Our tips for a successful mediation
It’s important to note that while the mediator plays an important role in facilitating the mediation, there are some things you should do to ensure that your mediation is a successful one. Here are our key tips for ensuring that your mediation is a positive experience:
Prepare what you want to discuss and what is important to you
We mentioned earlier that sometimes our disputes and disagreements arise because we haven’t been able to communicate our concerns with one another effectively. Mediation is your chance to talk about the things that concern you the most and decide what is important to you. Take the time to think about your ideal outcomes and the areas you’re willing to compromise on. While we would love to say that you’ll get what you want, it’s important to remember that mediation involves negotiation and compromise by both parties.
Seek legal advice
If you’re ever involved in a legal matter, particularly a family law matter, we recommend legal advice in advance of a mediation. The legal system in Australia is complex and when it involves an emotional and stressful topic, such as your family relationship, it can make it more difficult to make decisions clearly. Seeking legal advice allows you to understand your options and ensure that you can make decisions that are providing you and your family with the best outcomes. You don’t need to work with a lawyer the whole time to resolve your dispute if you don’t want to but getting their advice will make the process a lot easier.
Approach with an open mind
While we have to admit that mediation isn’t always successful, for many people, they can solve even the toughest of disputes through mediation but it’s important to approach the situation with the willingness to participate, talk and listen.
For more tips on mediation preparation you can watch our video guide here.
What is Clarity Lawyer’s role in family law mediation?
Here at Clarity Lawyers, our family law team provides advice, guidance, and support throughout the mediation process. We’re not mediators ourselves, rather we’re the legal representation that can help you prepare for and represent you during a mediation. Our team is highly experienced in helping clients through the mediation process by providing support, guidance, negotiation services and much more.
If you’re looking for legal support in family law mediation, we’re based in Newcastle and Maitland, however, we provide our family law services Australia wide.
Want to know how we can help you? Get in touch with us today by calling us on 02 4023 5553 or booking a consultation here.