If you have a family law dispute you need to resolve and you’d like to avoid going to court, attending mediation could be the solution.
Is the Family Court mediation process suitable for everyone?
Although many people find the mediation process useful, it isn’t suitable for everyone. For example, the family court mediation process is often not suitable where:
- There are circumstances of urgency
- There is a significant power imbalance between the parties or allegations of domestic violence.
- The process is being used to avoid having to provide full and frank financial disclosure.
The Mediation Process
To prepare for mediation, you should discuss your situation with your lawyer, and provide them with copies of all relevant documentation. You should also discuss with them the points you’re willing to negotiate on and what you consider non-negotiable.
Your lawyer will then discuss your options with you. Once they have reviewed all the relevant documentation, they will assist you in making fully informed, and/or commercially considered decisions.
2) The Format is Arranged
The format of your mediation session will depend on your requirements, as well as the requirements of the mediator. If you and your former partner are on speaking terms and can be civil with each other and there are no allegations of domestic violence, then the mediation can initially start with you both in the same room.
Most mediators tend to engage in what is known as a ‘shuttle mediation’. In a shuttle mediation, you and your former partner might start in the same room for the ‘intake session’. But from there, you’ll be in different rooms, and the mediator will move between you both, relaying information and offers.
3) The Mediator Will Discuss Aims & Expectations
At the beginning of the session, the mediator will discuss the aims of the session and what is expected of everyone. From there, the mediator will often speak to the parties separately and ask the lawyers for a private meeting to discuss the points of contention, or potential proposals for resolution.
4) Proceedings Move Towards an Agreement
The main goal of mediation is for you and your former partner to reach an agreement. If you do reach an agreement, then you should always discuss it fully with your lawyer before signing any settlement documents.
If all parties believe that the agreement is mutually beneficial, then it can be formalised by a Parenting Plan or a Consent Order (if it’s a parenting matter), or it can be formalised as Consent Orders or a Financial Agreement (if it’s a financial matter).
- you have reached an agreement and are applying to the court for a Consent Order;
- your matter is considered to be urgent;
- there has been or there is a risk of child abuse;
- there has been or there is a risk of domestic violence;
- you are responding to a court application made by your ex-partner;
- your matter has been ‘screened out’ as unsuitable for Family Dispute Resolution.
If an agreement is reached you may choose to keep it as an informal arrangement, document it, or make it into a binding court order. To make the agreement legally binding, the agreement will have to be drafted in a specific legal way and filed with the court. Your solicitor can discuss with you which of those options is most appropriate in your circumstances.
It is important that you do not sign any documents at Mediation without first obtaining advice from a family law solicitor. For example, with respect to parenting matters, if you do reach an agreement about your children and both you and your partner sign and date the agreement, it will be considered a ‘Parenting Plan’.
While a Parenting Plan is not a legally binding document, any court later making a decision about your children must still take the Parenting Plan into account so it is a legal document and therefore should not be signed without legal advice.
The team at Damien Greer Lawyers provide comprehensive and strategic family law advice at the highest level.