What is family mediation and dispute resolution?

It’s no secret that the family law courts are congested, slow and expensive. Alternative dispute resolution processes, such as family mediation, provide a solution for families affected by separation or divorce outside of the court system.

What is family mediation?

Formal family mediation involves disputing parties and a family mediator or family dispute resolution (FDR) practitioner. The mediator or FDR practitioner represents a neutral and independent third party, trained in mediation and negotiation. It is their job to facilitate discussion, listen to the needs and goals of each party, then identify issues and options to help resolve disputes.

Helping families to resolve disputes and reach an agreement outside of court is the goal of family mediation.

Who, what, when and where? 

Family mediation may involve two parties, extended family members, and children if they are a suitable age. Under Australian family law it is compulsory for separated parents to attempt family dispute resolution before applying to a family law court for parenting orders. There are some exceptions to this requirement, for example, where there is a history of violence or abuse.

Family mediation can address a wide range of issues including property disputes, parenting disputes, child support, spousal maintenance and issues relating to existing family court orders.

Families can participate in family mediation at any time, including before or during family court proceedings. Depending on the complexity of the issues being addressed, family mediation may take a few hours or days.

Family mediation should take place in a safe and comfortable environment, however, if distance or safety are a concern it can take place via telephone or video call.

What are the outcomes of family mediation?

Family mediation focuses on resolving disputes and providing solutions. The goal is for disputing parties to reach an agreement themselves. A mediator cannot formalise any agreements reached, but the parties may later seek to formalise their agreement with the assistance of solicitors.

If parties are unable to reach an agreement through family mediation, then they can have the matter heard in court where a judge will make a binding decision.

What are the benefits of family mediation?

Family mediation presents the opportunity for parties to a parenting dispute to reach agreement without the need of having a judge to decide the matter on their behalf. Not only are court proceedings costly, but also unnecessary if parties are able to resolve their dispute through a cost-effective mediation process.

While family court proceedings are very formal, family mediation is flexible, confidential and focuses on creating a safe and comfortable environment for the parties involved.

For assistance with your family matters speak to the expert family law team at Taylor & Scott Lawyers. They bring years of experience, care and understanding to your situation. Call on 1800 786 931 or contact directly through the Taylor & Scott website.

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