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What is mediation?

Mediation, which is also referred to as Family Dispute Resolution, is a way of resolving family disputes without going to court. Court can be a costly affair – emotionally and financially – which is why mediation is often used as an alternative.

Understanding mediation

The Mediator Standards Board defines mediation as, “… a process in which the participants, with the support of the mediator, identify issues, develop options, consider alternatives and make decisions about future outcomes and actions. The mediator acts as a third party to support participants to reach their own decisions.”

Benefits of using mediation

There are many advantages to using mediation during divorce proceedings:

  • Mediation takes less time than a court case.
  • You can make your own decisions rather than leaving your life in the hands of others.
  • You can sort out your issues in your own time.
  • Mediation can protect your relationship with your former partner and others involved.
  • Mediation is generally cheaper than a court case.
  • It can be less stressful.

When should you undertake mediation?

Mediation is an effective tool to deal with disputes early and quickly. It is also useful when you want or need to maintain a healthy relationship with the other party.

Generally, couples turn to mediation when they have disputes involving:

  • Children and parenting
  • Division of property
  • Partner maintenance
  • Child support.

If there are children involved, you are required to attend family dispute resolution, in accordance with the Family Law Act (Cth) 1975, before lodging an application to the court. 

Also, mediation is beneficial when other important adults in the lives of any children involved, such as grandparents, need dispute resolution to come to an agreement.

When mediation is not right for you

There are some situations when you will not be required to attend family dispute resolution, including:

  • If the safety of you or a child is at risk.
  • If there are mental health or drug/alcohol abuse problems in the relationship.
  • If there is an investigation into allegations of child abuse.
  • If you are prevented by an intervention order from having contact from the other party.
  • If the case is urgent. 

How mediation works

Prior to mediation taking place, each party will be assessed to determine whether the service is right for your particular situation. Every mediator will have a different method of facilitation, but there are some common features. These include:

  • Sessions are held together to give each party or their representative the opportunity to set out their interests and concerns.
  • Private sessions are also held to discuss possible agreements.
  • During joint sessions, parties are able to discuss preferred outcomes.
  • If an agreement is reached, this is recorded for the courts.
  • If an agreement is not reached, mediators attempt to narrow down the issues between the parties that will have to appear before the court.

Anything that is discussed during a mediation session is confidential and cannot be used by one party against the other during any subsequent court hearings.

If you cannot resolve your dispute, you will receive a formal document proving that you have tried family dispute resolution and that it did not work, or was not suitable, for your situation. This is provided to the court.

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