The mediation process
Some couples begin mediation in the very early stages of separation, even while they are separated under the same roof. Others might start the process with lawyers and only attend mediation to obtain a section 60I certificate. Others turn to mediation years after separation in order to change existing parenting arrangements or to solve specific parenting problems. However, no matter when you choose to begin mediation, the process is the same and involves the following steps:
1. Your initial contact by phone or email requesting pre-mediation. Thereafter, we can have a brief phone conversation about your situation and make an appointment for pre-mediation.
2. Pre-mediation. The pre-mediation is an appointment between the two of us. Pre-mediation can occur on the telephone but a meeting in my office is preferable. This meeting usually lasts for an hour to an hour and a half. The main focus of pre-mediation is an assessment as to whether mediation is a suitable process for you and your unique situation. For example, if you were unable to negotiate freely due to family violence, it would not be appropriate to mediate with your ex-partner. Other elements of pre-mediation session are:
- Discussing the history of your relationship;
- Discussing the parenting or property issues that are causing difficulties;
- Explaining and providing you with important legal information;
- Discussing resources and appropriate referrals; and
- Preparing for the next stage - the mediation with your ex-partner.
3. Invitation to your ex-partner to attend pre-mediation. Sometimes this stage of the process is very simple, but it can take longer if your ex-partner is difficult to contact or reluctant to attend. If your ex-partner will not attend pre-mediation, we will discuss your options.
4. Pre-mediation with your ex-partner.
5. If mediation is suitable, then either a joint mediation session or shuttle mediation (where ex-partners are in separate rooms) will be scheduled. A mediation session usually lasts up to three hours. Two to three sessions may be necessary if both parenting and property issues are involved. During the mediation process, I create a supportive environment that allows each parent to express their point of view and discuss issues of concern. From these discussions, an agenda or list of topics can be created. Options can be explored and evaluated. Together we work to find solutions acceptable to both parties. That is the beauty of mediation, those who are most effected by the outcomes, make the agreements. Any agreements reached, interim or final, can be documented. If no agreements are reached, we can discuss future options.
Mediation - a foundation for quality coparenting
When considering mediation, be aware that you and your ex-partner don’t have to be friends, respect each other or even like one another. Often when I meet with ex-partners, they are not getting along - far from it! However, by the end of the process, I hope that the foundations of a new parenting relationship have been established. A parenting relationship based on the knowledge that your children will function best when you and your ex-partner can parent in a more cooperative way.
Your safety and that of your children is of the utmost importance. You need to tell me if you have any concerns about safety and about any family violence orders. This could mean that mediation is not appropriate for your circumstance. However, it is also an opportunity for me to provide you with important referrals.