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Dispute Resolution: How Does Family Law Mediation Work?

11th Jun 2020 Legal Advice
When it comes to resolving family law matters such as parenting and finances, it’s important that those involved are able to come to a beneficial and clear resolution. Mediation ensures that these disputes can be resolved without involving the expense and hassle of the courts, and prioritises clear communication and the welfare of children involved. However, this is often a new experience for families, and it’s important to understand what the process involves.

Why go through family law mediation?

Even when all parties are in agreement, in complex legal matters such as the care of children and the handling of finances, it’s a good idea to seek the advice of a Family Law lawyer. A family lawyer can help you to understand your legal obligations and options, explain the law that applies to your individual case, and can help you to formalise the agreements made. A family mediator will:
  • Identify issues to be solved
  • Keep the discussion focused, calm, and rational
  • Prioritise the wellbeing of children involved
  • Facilitate a supportive environment
  • Ensure that all parties understand the agreements made
Usually, mediation can be adjusted to your circumstances. Whether there are children involved who need to be a part of the discussion, multiple parties, or if ‘shuttle mediation’ (mediation without the parties being brought together) is required, the discussion can be adjusted to your needs. An added benefit of going through a professional is that matters will stay confidential (with a few exceptions). Additionally, family mediation avoids a potentially expensive and stressful trial. In many cases (and especially in regards to children) courts require families to go through formal mediation before going to court.

Children

In matters of parenting arrangements, it’s not possible to go directly to court (save for a few exceptions including cases of family violence), making family mediation a crucial step in the process. In family mediation regarding children and parenting, the main focus will be on developing a parenting plan. This plan will be adaptable to the child(ren)’s specific circumstances including accommodation, expenses, daily care and schooling. The parenting plan must be agreed to in writing by all parties involved (apart from the child), but is not a legally enforceable document. If the mediation process is unsuccessful and an agreement cannot be made, you will need a section 601 certificate to prove that mediation was attempted, before applying to the court for parenting orders.

Finances

Family law mediation can also be used to settle issues of finances, property, and spousal maintenance. Settling these matters in mediation not only saves you the expense of going to court, but allows you to make your own decisions and can ensure successful ongoing communication.  Through the process of mediation, a financial agreement can be drawn up to cover settlement and support. This is a legally binding document signed by both parties (both parties must have also received independent legal and financial advice beforehand). If an arrangement can’t be agreed to in mediation, you will need to apply to the court for financial orders. ~ Negotiating matters in a family dispute context is most successful with clear communication, a focus on the matters at hand, and a view to reaching the best outcomes for all involved. To avoid going to court and expending unnecessary time, energy, and money, family law mediation with an experienced legal professional, is an option to resolve your case. 

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