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What is family mediation and dispute resolution?

The law requires separating families who have a dispute about children to make a genuine effort to try to sort it out through Family Dispute Resolution (FDR) before filing an application for parenting orders in court.

There is no doubt that family law courts are congested, slow and expensive. A dispute resolution process, such as family mediation, provides an affordable and timely option for resolving disputes.

You can make your life easier by engaging in family mediation. A family mediator is essentially a neutral party who assists you in the negotiation process by meeting with both of you, identifying the issues and then addressing those issues and reaching an agreement.

What is family mediation?

Mediation is a dispute resolution process where parties involved in a dispute are assisted by an independent third party to help them reach an agreement. Parties may agree to attend mediation to resolve financial and/or parenting issues.

The law encourages parents and other people interested in the welfare of their children to come to an agreement on arrangements for children.

Family Dispute Resolution (FDR) is a specific type of mediation that must, with limited exceptions, be undertaken prior to the commencement of court proceedings in parenting matters. 

What is it for and what is it about?

Family Dispute Resolution is for any people who are separating or who have separated, including those in De Facto or same-sex relationships, and those with or without children.

Family Dispute Resolution 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, when there is a history of violence or abuse.

Family dispute resolution practitioners are independent, accredited professionals who are trained to help people sort through their problems and try to reach an agreement.

The service can be used to resolve disputes about:

  • Children and property
  • Dividing your property
  • Spousal maintenance
  • Child support

What is the process and outcome of family mediation?

Family mediation style is adapted to meet the circumstances and the needs of the parties but within the bounds of the National Accreditation Standards that Nationally Accredited Mediators must abide by.

At the commencement, the family mediator will lay down the ground rules of respect. The mediator then seeks to have each of the parties tell their story and to point out their concerns.

A successful family mediation results in an agreement in writing, signed by both parties, which is usually to be documented by courts or by way of a parenting plan, financial agreement or consent order.

An outcome in property settlement matters at mediation by way of agreement cannot be final and binding, it must be later approved by a court or documented by way of a financial agreement.

In children’s issues, a mediator can help the parties draft a parenting plan, which although not a court order, is a document that can be later produced to the Family Courts as evidence of the agreement between the parents.

What are the benefits of family mediation?

There are several benefits of mediation in family law, including:

  • Time-efficient: Mediation can be completed in a shorter period of time than a traditional court case
  • Cost-effective: mediation is generally a less costly and stressful process than going to court
  • Flexibility: Mediation allows the parties to create a resolution that is tailored to their specific needs and circumstances, rather than being bound by a court’s decision
  • Confidentiality: Mediation is a private and confidential process.
  • Effectiveness: Mediation can encourage cooperation and can improve communication
  • Control: Mediation gives the parties more control
  • Preservation of Relationship: Mediation can help the parties maintain a better relationship in the long term, especially when children are involved. Mediation can help them to co-parent and communicate more effectively
  • Informal: Mediation is less formal than a court proceeding, which can make it less intimidating and more comfortable for the parties.

Don’t hesitate to contact one of our Kingsford Lawyers for any further information. Our experienced lawyers are well-equipped to provide you with advice and assistance on a wide range of family law matters. Contact us today to discuss how we can help you with your situation.

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