The process of separation and divorce for some couples involves bitter, prolonged and costly disputes. But with mediation, it doesn’t have to be this way.

Mediation is a structured alternative dispute resolution process whereby parties meet together and attempt to reach an agreement with the aid of independent person—the mediator.

The process involves rules and follows an agenda in which each party puts across their views and then negotiates to reach an agreed solution.

And given the parties are more in control of the outcome, a large majority of mediated cases are settled amicably, taking less time and involving less stress.

When is mediation suitable?

Mediation is suitable for all types of matters, but it’s particularly suited to cases where the likelihood of a negotiated outcome will better suit the needs and interests of the parties compared with a decision imposed by a judge.

In the case of parenting disputes, it’s compulsory for the couple to try mediation prior to going to court. Whereas in property dispute cases [arties aren’t required to mediate prior to court proceedings, however, the court strongly encourages it.

Parties can opt to mediate early in the dispute process, or at later stages. And it can happen more than once in a dispute, even in the midst of court proceedings, particularly where the proceedings are going nowhere.

Mediation is less stressful, less unpleasant and far less costly than court proceedings and can resolve even the most entrenched Family Law disputes.

What makes for a successful mediation?

The choice of the mediator is important.

Family Relationships Centres and other community organisations can offer mediation services, and there are also private mediators.

But it helps if each party has obtained their own advice from a solicitor experienced in Family Law before undergoing mediation. A solicitor can advise as to the likely consequences, expenses, and where to go next if an agreement is not reached. Family lawyers are especially important where the dispute is complex.

But the most important factor in any successful mediation is preparation. Just turning up and repeating arguments and complaints, hoping your views will prevail, is unlikely to produce a successful outcome.

Lawyers can do the necessary work beforehand in property disputes to work out who owns what, and how much it’s worth, and identify the points of contention. This assists parties to focus on the important issues and keep the emotional reactions to a minimum. However, it’s important to prepare proposals and creative solutions beforehand, which can then be altered through negotiation, so that both parties can get to a successful agreement. It helps to bring detailed draft Consent Orders and Applications to the mediation process.

Mediation is less stressful, less unpleasant and far less costly than court proceedings. It can resolve even the most entrenched Family Law disputes. You’d be amazed what progress can be made when the parties get a chance to meet and speak face-to-face in an open and confidential atmosphere.

Evidence shows agreements reached through mediation are more acceptable to parties and longer lasting in their effect than orders imposed by a judge. But to succeed in mediation, it’s vital to put in the necessary groundwork and go about it in the right way.