More often than not, a divorce would mean engaging in a long war through a string of complex and excruciating courtroom battles. Mediation can resolve disputes faster and sometimes, within a day.
Mediation is an alternative and a voluntary method that could save the family from the tensions of the courtroom. As it is also a voluntary process, it can be used before or even after court proceedings have been filed as long as both parties are willing to enter into meaningful negotiation. This may seem like a daunting process so this article provides a walkthrough to help shed some light on this route.
Mediation is a Simpler Process
Under the requirement of the Family Law Act of 1975, separating families should first attempt to sort things out through a Family Dispute Resolution (FDR). Mediation, a form of FDR, is a simpler, less stressful, and more cost-efficient alternative. Furthermore, recent surveys suggest that mediation is a successful method of primary dispute resolution.
Compared to an adversarial litigation where each party obtains a legally-binding solution imposed on the parties, a mediation is facilitated by a mediator, a neutral third party. The mediator gives both parties control over the dispute and its outcome. In short, the mediator does not take sides but instead guides both parties to find a mutually acceptable middle ground.
Everything you need to know about the 7 Stages of Mediation
Mediation is an approach that emphasises civil communication and collaboration. It is non-confrontational and offers confidentiality because the mediator will meet with both parties separately and does not share any information with the other party unless given consent.
However, it is a common misconception that the mediation process is only composed of friendly meetings with a mediator with both parties. Mediation is composed of a multi-staged process designed to get the best results for both parties. Below is an overview of the standard steps involved in divorce mediation:
1. PREPARATION AND MEDIATOR’S OPENING STATEMENT
In this stage, both parties will be seated at a table (unless the parties are in separate rooms, which is often referred to as a “shuttle mediation”). The mediator introduces each party and explains the ground rules and the goals of the mediation process.
2. PARTIES’ STATEMENTS AND MEDIATOR’S SUMMARIES
Each party is given time to describe the dispute from their perspective. This is then noted and summarised by the mediator.
The goal of this stage is to assure both parties that their concerns are fairly laid out, open a positive atmosphere conducive to effective negotiation, and provide an opportunity for each party to appreciate each other’s situation.
3. IDENTIFICATION AND LISTING OF ISSUES (AGENDA SETTING)
The issues or general ideas for resolution are listed and emphasised whether through the use of a whiteboard or equivalent that allows parties to refer to the topics or issues during the mediation. The listed issues form the foundation for effective negotiation and cooperative problem-solving.
4. JOINT EXPLORATORY DISCUSSION
The mediator may encourage both parties to communicate directly while focusing on a topic or issue that was listed in the previous stage. This provides an opportunity to clarify each party’s needs and interests.
5. PRIVATE MEETING
This stage is a chance to meet privately with the mediator as there are topics that a person is only comfortable sharing privately. The mediator will go between rooms to discuss each position and offers of each side. These meetings are not limited and can be continued by the mediator until necessary. The goal of this stage is to assist parties to prepare to negotiate, generate options and ensure that particular proposals are realistic.
6. JOINT NEGOTIATION
After the private meetings, the mediator may bring both parties to a joint negotiation stage. This stage gives the basis for joint problem solving and exploring if any agreement is able to be reached. This may also be followed by further private meetings and joint sessions where necessary.
7. FINAL SESSION
In the final session, the parties will meet in the presence of the mediator to discuss all issues and options that were laid out in the previous stages.
In the final session, the parties meet together in the presence of the mediator to discuss issues and possible options for resolution. The mediator then facilitates final negotiations and finalises the terms of any agreement reached. However, in some cases, the mediation may need to be adjourned or terminated.
We hope we were able to shed some light on the process of a family law mediation. If you require assistance with a family law mediation, contact the team at Coonan & Coonan Legal on 1300 001 298 or book an appointment on our website www.coonanandcoonanlegal.com.au.