One of the questions our family lawyers in Perth are often asked is ‘how does family mediation work?’.
In this post, we’ll explain everything you need to know about how family mediation works and what happens after your mediation too.
What Is Family Mediation?
Family mediation is an exceptionally effective voluntary process to help divorcing couples resolve disputes and reach an amicable settlement, as painlessly and in the least costly and quickest way as possible.
When children under 18 years are involved, family mediation is mandatory in Australia.
What Does A Family Mediator Do?
A family mediator facilitates the mediation process with the primary goal being to help both partners reach a mutually agreed settlement and avoid the Courts as much as possible, thus keeping costs down to a minimum.
During family mediation, the mediator does not represent either party, but remains neutral at all times, offering legal guidance to both parties, enabling them to make their own decisions that they can both live with.
Mediators have the knowledge and expertise to deal with all divorce matters, especially those pertaining to the care of children. By empowering both parties with all the necessary information, they minimise conflict and the level of stress for the entire family.
The fact that the majority of divorces and separations in Australia are resolved by mediators, proves beyond any doubt that the system works.
How Does Family Mediation Work?
First and foremost, both partners must be genuinely keen to end the relationship as painlessly and as quickly as possible, and to be brutally honest with all the information they need to disclose. If any information is found to be false or withheld, it will have serious repercussions and certainly delay the divorce process.
How family mediation works, is that a pre-session will take place, during which the mediator will explain the process, informing both partners of what is expected of them and ask them to provide all the relevant documents. These could be salary slips, proof of bank accounts, properties, investments, superannuation and other assets. This will enable the mediator to gain an understanding of the situation, in order to offer meaningful guidance towards reaching an amicable settlement.
The pre-session meeting and the mediation sessions to follow could be held jointly or separately if requested. For example it may be appropriate if there has been a history of intimidation or violence.
What Happens During The Mediation Session?
This of course, is the main event. The mediator will by now have a clear understanding of the points of contention and would submit their suggestions to both parties. Each unresolved issue is then discussed and negotiated one by one until they are all resolved. No pressure will be placed on either party to agree on any issue that they may not feel comfortable with.
Both parties may have a family member or close friend present for moral support or even their own lawyer for further legal advice, but this must be agreed upon prior by the other party. This gives both parties an extra layer of support. There is also no pressure to sign anything there and then. Each party may need more time to think things through, or obtain a second opinion.
What Happens After Mediation?
When all issues are resolved, the mediator will draw up the agreement, which both parties can either sign, or take to their own lawyers for a final opinion before signing. The agreement should define all the terms of the settlement providing as much detail as possible, to avoid possible conflict in the future. It should include details regarding custody, child support, parental rights, sharing of finances, assets, etc.
Once the agreement is signed by both parties, the mediator will submit it to the Court for approval and will then become legally binding.
If some issues remain unresolved and no final settlement can be reached, these issues will have to be decided by a Judge in a Court of Law, which may not be satisfactory to either party and could also be a costly and lengthy affair. But even so, the mediation costs would have still been worth it, as only the unresolved issues would have to be argued in the Court.
Want to talk to a trusted family mediator?
Hickman Family Lawyers offer family mediation in Perth to divorcing or separating couples.
Get in touch with us now to find out more about how mediation could work for you.