Family law mediation is the process of resolving family law matters without court interference. Due to the backlog of the court system, many families who go to the Family Court or Federal Circuit Court for their family law matter experience ongoing delays and significant financial and emotional stress. As a result, many families are turning to alternative methods for resolving their disputes.
Family law mediation is a family dispute resolution process that is famous for resolving family law matters. It is a quicker and more affordable method for resolving parenting and property disputes. In fact, a Registrar will often make orders for parties to attend mediation first. The Registrar highly recommends mediation before having their matter go through in court in an attempt to early resolutions.
Exploring Family Law Mediation
An accredited mediator facilitates mediation and acts as an impartial and neutral third party. The mediator or family dispute resolution practitioners assist participants in reaching an agreement in a safe and respectful environment.
The mediator will identify the issues, develop options, and consider alternative solutions. They usually do this to resolve the matter without having to involve the Family Court or Federal Circuit Court.
What are the Benefits of Family Law Mediation?
Parties can control the overall process, whilst the court proceedings are generally more rigid. Examples include:
- Parties can agree on where and when they wish to have the mediation. Therefore, it will conveniently adapt to their needs.
- Family law mediation is highly flexible and more informal in comparison to court proceedings. Mediation accommodates the needs of the individual parties.
- Parties can select an independent mediator and negotiate and agree on the fees for engaging the family dispute resolution service.
Reduction in delays and costs
- Courts experience significant backlogs. Hence, parties waiting to have their matter heard before the Court will continue to incur expenses. For instance, costs for retaining legal representation.
- The mediation process tailors to each circumstance to avoid unrelated costs.
- Parties are able to schedule their own mediation date and family relationship centre, affording more certainty to the parties. On the other hand, the Court may make directions to adjourn the matter to a later date. This will result in more delays.
- Mediation is a confidential process. All discussions that occur and documentation exchanged during the mediation must remain between the parties. Their legal representatives and a family dispute resolution practitioner.
- Parties are generally restrained from using the information obtained at the mediation for their own advantage. However, there are exceptions in specific circumstances.
Supports Positive Relationships
- Mediation provides parties with the opportunity to resolve the matter in an amicable manner. Therefore, this increases the prospects of a positive relationship between the parties. This is particularly important where there are minor children involved.
What Is a Pre-Mediation Conference?
Parties to a mediation may attend a pre-mediation conference with the mediator. They may take this as an opportunity for the mediator to explain the mediation process. Moreover, the mediator can suggest or make amendments to the process so that it is tailored to each party’s requirements.
The conference will also provide clarity as to whether any further materials or preparation will be required prior to the mediation. For example, should financial documentation be exchanged or whether a market appraisal or valuation is required. An understanding of the value of all relevant assets prior to the mediation will generally deter conflict as to value of the assets at mediation, thereby reducing delays and emotional stress.
The mediator will generally make a request for a Position Paper, which is an overview of their respective party’s position and what issues they wish to resolve at the mediation.
What Occurs at Family Law Mediation?
During mediation, the general process starts with an initial joint session between the parties involved so that there is an opportunity for them to set out their position, interests, concerns, and what they are hoping to achieve. Parties may then separate where they will have a private session with the mediator to discuss possible agreements to resolve the issues. The mediator may request that parties return to a joint session to discuss the outcomes and the formalised agreements. What if there are no formalised agreements? If this is the case, then the mediator will continue to assist the parties. These professionals will narrow the issues that the Court will consider moving forward.
Legal representation is available at mediation as a solicitor can assist their client throughout the process. This includes all preparation work and at the pre-mediation conference. Solicitors can advise their clients on any offers that they receive from the other side, or, offers they plan on making. Solicitors will also be responsible for drafting all documents necessary for recording the agreement in the event that the parties do reach a joint outcome.
Is Family Law Mediation Appropriate for You?
Family law mediation is a popular dispute resolution method in family law. It differs from arbitration, another dispute resolution method, where parties present their arguments to an arbitrator who then makes a binding determination (that is, a judgment that may be legally enforceable once registered with the Court). However, arbitration is limited to property settlement-related matters.
Mediation can assist in resolving a broader range family law disputes, including:
- Family violence or domestic violence
- Child abuse
- Parenting and property matters (this includes interim and final property matters )
- Spousal maintenance
- Child support issues
- Contravention/breaches of existing orders
- Issues relation to the implementation of orders
- Disagreements over issues relating to parental responsibilities such as passports and overseas travel involving children, school enrolment, and medical issues relating to a child.
Mediators can start mediation at any point in time of the dispute, and it may occur even prior to instituting court proceedings or whilst court proceedings are already in progress.
Agreement – Is it Binding?
If parties reach an agreement at family law mediation, they will then need to formalise their agreement with the assistance of their legal representation. Family lawyers can draft consent orders in order to formalise the agreement and make it binding on the parties.
No Agreement – What Happens Now?
Parties unable to reach an agreement will have the following options:
- Continue to negotiate between themselves, either directly or through their respective lawyers;
- Attempt family dispute resolution again in the future;
- Participate in a Family Law Arbitration if the issues only related to property matters; or
- Continue to pursue their matter through the Family Court where a Judge will ultimately make a decision for the parties.
Who is the Mediator?
The mediator is often a family law solicitor who specifically trains through their accreditation from a body such as the Australian Institute of Family Law Arbitration and Mediation. They must complete the National Training Standard in order to receive accreditation.
The mediator is not an advisor and cannot decide on legal matters. The mediator’s role is merely to assist and support the parties in reaching an agreement.
Parties may jointly agree on who they select as the mediator and they may even share costs or otherwise as agreed.
JB Solicitors’ Family Mediation Team
JB Solicitors has a leading team of lawyers who have amassed extensive knowledge and expertise in the area of Family Law.
Our Family Law Department is led by its principal, John Bui, a recognised and accredited family law Mediator and Arbitrator by the Australian Institute of Family Law Arbitrators and Mediators. Accordingly, he is highly skilled and well equipped to mediate all family law related matters.
John Bui has been recognised by the Law Society of NSW Journal and was only one of ten lawyers across Australia to have been nominated for the 2018 Lawyer’s Weekly 30 Under 30 award for his outstanding work in the area of Family Law.
JB Solicitors is experienced in handling all types of family law matters. You can be confident in our ability to provide you with a leading professional mediation service that will exceed all of your expectations.
We also offer fixed fee pricing on our family law mediation service – click here to find out more.
If you would like to engage JB Solicitors’ family dispute resolution services, or simply wish to learn more, please feel free to visit our main office in Canley Heights, or alternatively, contact us on:
|Sydney CBD Office
|(02) 9723 8080
|+61 8088 7713
|233 Castlereagh St
|Sydney NSW 2000