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Family Law Mediation

Family mediation is an excellent alternative to the court system and is highly recommended for families going through a separation or divorce. Mediation is compulsory in Parenting Matters and can also be used to great effect in Property Matters for a cost-effective and efficient solution.

East Coast Law offers Mediation Assistance in the form of experienced and measured legal guidance and representation in the mediation process from our expert mediation lawyers. We ensure your interests are properly represented and advocated for and a fair outcome for all parties involved.

With offices in Newcastle, Toukley, Maitland, Edgeworth & Port Macquarie, our team is here to help you navigate Family Mediation and Family Dispute Resolution.

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What is Family Mediation?

Family Mediation is the process in which a separated or divorced couple, together with the assistance of a neutral person or persons, systematically isolate disputed issues in order to develop options, consider alternatives and reach a consensual agreement that will accommodate their needs.

Family Mediation has many benefits. The process places the control of family dispute resolution in your hands rather than leaving it up to a Judge to decide. Mediation is usually significantly cheaper and quicker than going to court. You can mediate your dispute at any time, even when your matter is already in court.

Mediation is confidential to the extent allowed by the law. This allows you to have an open and frank discussion about the problems you are having and generate options for resolving your dispute. This result can be more flexible than a decision by a court or third party.
For disputes that can not be resolved by mediation, the matter can be brought before the Family Court where a judge will make a decision for the parties.

Mediation in Parenting Matters

Mediation is now compulsory in parenting matters. Parties must attempt mediation before they can commence court proceedings. There are exceptions to compulsory mediation in circumstances of urgency and/or family violence.

Mediation is offered by private individuals and community-based organisations (for example Interrelate and Relationships Australia).

If parenting arrangements are agreed upon at mediation, your Solicitor can then prepare a Parenting Plan or consent documents to obtain consent orders from the court.

If the matter remains unresolved after mediation is attempted, the Mediator will issue a section 60 I certificate. This is a certificate referred to in section 60 I of the Family Law Act, 1975. The issue of the certificate then allows a party to commence court action to obtain parenting orders.

Parenting court proceedings may take up to two (2) years (sometimes more) to be determined by the court on a final basis. Parties are encouraged throughout the process to reach an agreement to ensure their children’s best interests are served and the impact of the court process and parents conflict is lessened as much as possible.

Mediation in Property Matters

Although not compulsory in property disputes, mediation should always be considered before court action is commenced to save time, money and emotional stress. Property settlement negotiations may also take place by way of a round table conference, where the parties and their Solicitors have direct upfront negotiations with each other.

In a contested property matter which is progressing through the court stages, mediation is often ordered by the court. This may occur by way of one of the Court’s Registrars’ conducting a Conciliation Certificate or by an approved private mediator conducting external mediation.

If an agreement is reached between former spouses prior to or during court action, consent orders are typically prepared by one of the Solicitors. The consent orders are signed by the parties and their Solicitors and lodged with the court. The Judge (or Magistrate in the Local Court) will make orders in chambers without the need for a court appearance. The Judge, however, must be satisfied the consent orders are properly drafted and represent a fair and equitable resolution of the matter.

Sometimes if parties reach an agreement without court proceedings being commenced their Solicitor may recommend they formalise the agreement in writing by way of a Binding Financial Agreement (“BFA”) rather than consent orders.  

It is very important to obtain information and advice from an experienced family lawyer early in the settlement dispute and often it is recommended advice be received prior to, or immediately following separation.

Significant costs may be incurred by a party in an attempt to settle or negotiate a matter where the other party is not responding to those actions. An experienced family lawyer will advise you when to stop attempted settlement discussions and when to commence court action. Some people and some matters only respond to litigation. This is very unfortunate, however, it is far better to learn this sooner rather than later.

As with contested parenting matters, legal costs and delays in litigated property cases are significant. When considering settlement of a property matter a party must always take into account the costs they have incurred to date and the costs of progressing the matter further by court action. Making property settlement decisions is like making a business decision. Continuing with Court action because “of the principle of the matter” is usually a very expensive and ultimately unrewarding experience.

Experienced Mediation Lawyers

Our mediation lawyers have extensive experience in advising, guiding and representing our clients in family law mediations and family dispute resolution. We offer realistic, honest and level headed advice to our clients to prepare and guide them through the negotiation process.
We understand that the resolution of parenting matters and division of assets is often the most emotionally challenging aspect of a divorce or separation. Our approach is one of care and empathy, guiding our clients and representing their interests to ensure a smooth, efficient, and fair outcome can be reached.
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