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Mediation is a form of ADR (amicable/alternative dispute resolution) which, for parenting matters, is a compulsory step you must take before you can file proceedings (unless your matter is urgent) and for property proceedings is a process you will likely be ordered to participate in upon commencing court proceedings, either by a private mediation or a Conciliation Conference.

What does it mean to go to mediation?

Mediation is a very important step in your resolution process, so do not undervalue it.  A mediation that has been properly prepared for can resolve your matter.  If you can reach an agreement at mediation you will save yourself the expense of a final hearing, which is both a financial and an emotional expense. 

Whether you are trying to negotiate a settlement out of court or have been ordered to attend mediation as part of the court process, the way you approach your upcoming mediation could be the difference between reaching an amicable resolution or continuing down the path to an expensive and emotionally draining final hearing.

How do I best prepare for family court mediation?

Irrespective of whether your mediation concerns division of property or arrangements for children there will be facts in dispute and possibly facts you are in agreement about.  These will vary from matter to matter but may include a number of things.

Identify your Issues

The length of the relationship and the date of separation. Whether or not the parenting arrangements proposed are practical in the circumstances.
The value of the property pool we are attempting to divide Whether the parenting arrangements sought are in the children’s best interests.
Each person’s contributions to the property pool. Whether there are any risk factors associated with the children spending time with one parent and whether these risk can be overcome or otherwise mitigated by protective measures being in place.
Whether or not you or your ex-partner has a future need that would warrant a greater percentage of the property pool. What activities or important dates might need to be considered and worked around for the parenting arrangements to be workable in the long-term.

By identifying these issues you can then consider whether some issues can remain outstanding and reach a resolution in any event, and what issues must absolutely be investigated and determined before your matter has a chance of resolving.   In parenting matters allegations of violence or sexual abuse are serious issues that cannot be ignored and your matter will need to proceed to a final hearing for final determination.  In your circumstances, there may be some issues that cannot be resolved by mediation. In any case, you should try and identify all the relevant issues that are outstanding and could be resolved in preparation for your upcoming mediation.

Make an honest attempt to resolve the issues before mediation

Whether or not your mediation will be successful often relies upon the work that is undertaken in the lead up to mediation.  To give your mediation the best chance of success an honest and genuine attempt must be made, by both parties, to address the outstanding issues.  For example, in the lead up to a mediation which will consider the division of assets, if there are any assets or liabilities that do not have an agreed value it is wise to attempt to negotiate an agreement or organise a formal valuation. By making a list of these issues and attempting to resolve them before mediation will allow you and your ex-partner to focus on what’s really important: trying to find a resolution that is fair and reasonable (and in the best interests of the children) in the circumstances.

Be Prepared to Compromise

Mediations are only successful when both parties approach the issues reasonably.  There may be outstanding issues that could not be resolved or thoroughly investigated before your mediation date, and that’s OK. Generally between four to six hours are set aside for mediation, which is generally not enough time to forensically dissect and determine your family law matter. Instead, mediation is an attempt to achieve a resolution that you and your ex-partner can live with, even in spite of any outstanding issues. Therefore, it is important to take some time before the day of your mediation to consider what arrangements you could live with. This is not about just accepting whatever is proposed, but considering what settlement is beneficial from a financial and emotional standpoint and will not prolong your matter unnecessarily until a final hearing. The mediation can be draining and emotional, and so to consider your options and understand your bottom line before you attend will make you feel more comfortable as you are proposing and considering settlement offers.

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