What is Mediation? How Does it Work? When is it Appropriate?

Mediation can be a very effective way to resolve all different types of disputes, including neighbourhood disputes, family law matters, employment issues and often estate claims.

In family law matters some mediation sessions are voluntary and some are compulsory.

If you and your former partner have an issue about parenting arrangements for your children, you are not able to commence court proceedings until mediation has been attempted. In this sense mediation is compulsory.

In property settlement court matters, mediation is part of the Court process itself. A session of mediation is conducted by a Registrar of the Court once both parties have filed their court documents. Again, in this sense mediation is compulsory.

However, people with family law issues should consider the value of voluntary mediation early in their dispute. Mediation services are offered by community based organisations and by private mediators. The costs of participation at mediation vary and some community based organisations do not charge a fee at all.

Often mediation service providers will arrange sessions for mediation outside business hours in order to accommodate the availability and work commitments of the parties.

Although some mediators are also qualified lawyers, mediation is not a court hearing and the mediator’s role is not to impose an outcome on the participants. Mediators facilitate communications between the parties and help people reach an agreement about very important matters. Mediators will listen to what people have to say and assist them to focus on improving their situation and finding ways to resolve conflict and problems.

Mediation is cost effective and less daunting than the legal process of court action. Often people are able through mediation to reach an agreement which is more detailed and more specific to the needs of their children and themselves, compared with less flexible orders imposed upon them by a Judge.

There are some circumstances where mediation is not appropriate. Those circumstances include the need for very urgent Court orders (eg to prevent one party removing a child from the country), where there is a history of domestic violence and/or where there is an incapacity or inability to participate.

In remote country areas, mediation may be conducted via telephone link. This makes participation in the process more readily available to people and often more cost effective.

Mediation may be conducted with or without your family lawyer being present with you. If the family lawyers for the parties are not included in the mediation session, the mediator will allow the parties to contact their family lawyer for advice if needed.

Family law is an area where there is a great benefit to people through participation in mediation. Speak to your family lawyer to discuss these benefits and to consider the type of mediation which would suit you best.

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