Family mediation is a collaborative process in which a neutral mediator helps a couple or individuals settle their differences over important issues that may come up during separation and divorce. These disputes are often related to the sharing of children, assets and debts, property and the future of the relationship.
Mediation is a quicker, less stressful and more cost effective option for resolving your family law matters than litigation. It allows you to keep control over the outcome rather than leaving it in the hands of a judge.
A court case can be a very traumatic experience. The adversarial nature of the proceedings and the high costs can be emotionally draining for everyone involved. Even when both parties hire their own lawyers, the arguing and blaming continue which only adds to the conflict. In many cases by the time couples go to court they dislike each other, are not communicating well, are highly distrustful and fear further emotional pain.
The goal of the mediator is to provide a setting in which participants can identify options and find solutions to meet their individual needs and situation. Participants remain in control of what happens and make all decisions, including whether or not to accept a solution. The mediator can assist the participants in developing a settlement that is acceptable to both sides for filing with the court.
Unlike a lawyer who will argue on your behalf, in a mediation you get the opportunity to put across your side of the story in your own words. You will also have the chance to discuss any concerns or proposals you may have.
It is normal for discussions to become heated at times and it is the role of the mediator to help the participants remain calm. However, if the discussion becomes too heated and is having a detrimental effect on the process it is advisable to ask for a break.
When choosing a mediator you should choose an experienced Family Mediation Council Accredited (FMCA) mediator. It is also worth contacting a mediator prior to your first session and speaking with them on the phone to get an idea of their approach to mediation and what their areas of expertise are.
During a mediation session it is important to remember that this is not the time to air your grievances, especially about your former partner. It is about working together to reach a parenting timeshare and child custody agreement that will work for everyone.
A mediation will be a less formal process than a hearing in court, but it is still necessary to bring supporting documentation and any relevant documents that you would like the mediator to have on hand. In addition, you should have an attorney that you can consult with prior to the mediation and who can advocate on your behalf during the sessions if desired. Mediation is a voluntary process and participants can opt in or out at any point in the process.