What to expect at family law mediation?

Men Thinking

Mediation is a process where a mediator, who is usually an accredited mediator, experienced barrister or former judge, assists the parties in a family law dispute to negotiate terms of a parenting agreement or property settlement in order to avoid court. Sometimes parties who are undergoing court proceedings will be referred by the judge to attend a mediation.

It is important to understand that mediators do not take sides and they do not form opinions about what party is right or wrong, instead a mediator will assist the parties, with their lawyers, to come to an agreement.

There is no one way to conduct a mediation, and different mediators use different processes and have different skill sets. Generally, mediations are conducted one of two ways, firstly by way of “shuttle” this is where each of the parties are in separate rooms and the mediator goes room to room facilitating the negotiations. Secondly, the mediation can be conducted with all of the parties meeting together in one room as a “round table” process.

On the day of the mediation, the mediator will start with an introduction in order to explain the process, their role as a mediator and rules applicable to mediation.

After the mediator has introduced themselves and the process the solicitors for each party will summarise their client’s position and the relevant issues. In cases of property settlements, the solicitors for the parties will also discuss the “balance sheet” this is the list of assets and liabilities in the property pool. For the purposes of negotiation and compromise it is common for the parties, with the help of their solicitors, to come to an agreed balance sheet (the value of the assts and liabilities).

After the preliminaries are discussed, the mediator will describe the issues raised by both parties and attempt to prompt discussions that settle each individual issue one by one.

Even where mediation takes place using the “round table” method, each party will have the opportunity to have private discussions with their lawyer, and also the mediator, this is a good opportunity to discuss with the mediator their thoughts on the issues.

Eventually the process turns to negotiation. The mediator will help the parties explore various avenues to facilitate an agreement. In property settlement matters, negotiations usually revolve around the percentage of the total property pool each party is to retain. In parenting matters the negotiations generally revolve around the time each parent will spend with the child. 

If the parties come to an agreement, it will be put in writing, and in most cases terms of settlement will be signed on the day or within 7 days following mediation.

Our lawyers are experienced at representing parties at mediation. If you would like further information on how we can assist please do not hesitate to call our firm.

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