Family Mediation: What to Expect & How to Get the most out of it

Family Mediation: What to Expect & How to Get the most out of it

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Published by TOP4 Team

Most separated parents have heard of the word mediation, and whether that word makes you uncomfortable or even fills you with dread if you view it the right way and go in prepared, mediation can help you establish a co-parenting relationship with your ex when you feel like you’re getting nowhere yourself. Simply put, mediation is a formal process where both parties come together with a professional mediator to help them generate solutions and discuss options to move towards agreements.

The great thing about family mediation is that it’s an alternative to reaching an agreement rather than through lawyers or going via the Family Court, which can be stressful and costly. Also, by using mediation, you remain in control of your future. You make the decisions rather than submitting to a ruling or judgement imposed by a third party.

Mediation is far less costly than heading to Family Court, where you’re likely to be looking at many tens of thousands of dollars to end up with a ruling that ultimately is out of your control. There is also a huge emotional toll involved in a drawn-out legal battle, not to mention the time it can take to have the matter heard in court, which in some cases could be more than a year.

It’s important to note that some matters do need to be heard before the Courts. These include cases where there are allegations of violence and abuse or where parties still can’t reach an agreement after attempting mediation. The thing to remember about going to court is that no matter how confident you may feel about your legal case, once you go before the Court there is no certainty about the outcome. At that point, the decision is placed in the hands of the Judge who can call on input from an independent children’s lawyer or a family consultant/psychologist, and from there, it’s out of your control.

In the many cases we’ve seen, we firmly believe that as much as you may feel like you have no idea where your ex-partner is coming from anymore or that you’re already bending over backwards to compromise with them, continuing to try to work towards an outcome with them will lay the groundwork for creating a parenting relationship that will allow you to most effectively co-parent in the future. While your relationship is now over, you may still have many years ahead where you will need to find a way to consult each other about your children’s well-being and come to decisions about their welfare in a way that will allow the least amount of disruption to the new life you are building, for both you and your children.

Common topics discussed in family mediation are things like communication expectations and changeover routines which will lay ground rules about how parents will deal with each other in the future. This helps to avoid unfortunate misunderstandings, power struggles and uncertainty, especially while emotions may still be raw, and sometimes volatile.

Alternative types of mediation:

If your specific circumstances mean that a standard mediation process is not appropriate, there are still other alternatives you can look at before you resort to going to court.

1. Shuttle mediation

If there is a considerable power imbalance between the parties or there have been allegations of abuse, there can be a call for what’s called a shuttle mediation.

This means that each parent is in the room with the mediator at the beginning of the session for the introduction but they are then separated and the mediators move between the two parties conveying each parent’s options and offers.

This can be a slower negotiation route but may be necessary in certain cases to protect the emotional well-being of one or both parties.

Shuttle mediation is also very effective when a financial settlement is being conducted and is routinely used for this purpose.

2. Legally assisted mediation

This involves each parent having their lawyer present at the mediation to advise them through the process as well as during final negotiations. While this does create an additional cost of a lawyer as well as a mediator, if effective it will be far less costly and timely compared to heading to court.

It’s important to note that the lawyers are not parties to the mediation; they do not speak directly for their clients but are there to advise their client individually.

How to prepare for mediation:

Mediation can seem like a daunting process; not knowing what to expect, wondering if you’ll have the confidence to stand up for yourself if you’ll remember to say everything you wanted to say or being scared that you may end up being locked into something you’re not happy with. On top of that, you also have to face your ex-partner again and risk re-opening wounds that may still be mending.

But, with some information and planning, you can achieve excellent results. Before joint sessions start, each parent will have a private session with the mediator. This is your time to tell your story, talk about your fears, what you want to achieve and ask any questions you may have. In turn, the mediator should explain how the sessions will progress and what you need to do to get ready.

If you're looking for a professional mediator in Sydney that specialises in family mediation, consult today!


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