Why choose mediation?
There are so many significant changes that can occur during separation including where you live, your daily routine, your finances, friendship groups and relationships with your ex-partner's family. When children are involved these changes are even more daunting. Every separation is unique but the experience can leave you feeling lonely, drained, demoralized even devastated. The emotions of separation can make it very difficult to resolve ongoing and future issues with your ex-partner. This is why mediation can provide the best alternative for many families.
Mediation - reducing conflict and improving communication
The level of conflict between parents and the quality of co-parenting are two of the best predictors of a child's future well-being and outcomes. For this reason, it is important to consider alternatives to litigation. Litigation is an adversarial process that usually increases animosity between the litigants. As they say, litigants don't make good co-parents. Mediation, on the other hand, is a non-adversarial process which can build understanding and improve communication between ex-partners. This has to be the best outcome for you and your children.
Mediation - allows the future to be decided by those who know your children best
The decision to mediate means arrangements can be made by those who know and love your children best. The parents. Not the lawyers, not the court's family consultants, nor the judge. These professionals may be extremely knowledgeable within their fields of expertise but they are not experts about your children. Nor do they have to live with the outcomes.
Mediation - reducing costs
Many people are attracted to mediation because it is considerably less expensive than lawyer-assisted negotiation or litigation. It can be very difficult to predict legal costs particularly in the early stages. This is because each family law matter is unique and there are so many variables. Your matter may turn out to be more complex than expected or your ex-partner may turn out to be far more uncooperative than you, or your lawyer, anticipated. Another very important cost, often overlooked, is the value of your time - time you will lose as you attend to your family law matter or are preoccupied with its progress.
Mediation - a speedier process
Mediation is a fairly quick process. There is an initial pre-mediation session with each spouse and usually one or two joint mediation sessions. The number of joint mediation sessions will depend on the complexity of your situation. Depending on your own and your ex-partner's availability, the matter can be completed within one to three months.
Unfortunately, family law negotiations can be protracted. Lawyers try to resolve disputes by negotiating with the other side, through correspondence or conversations with the other lawyer. Imagine a common scenario - trying to make arrangements for the upcoming school holidays. You are unsuccessful in your discussions with your ex-partner, so you contact your lawyer and the following events occur: your lawyer writes to your ex-partner's lawyer; your ex-partner’s lawyer contacts your ex-partner; your ex-partner gives their lawyer a response; then your ex-partner’s lawyer contacts your lawyer with the response (who then passes along the answer to you!). How long do you think this will take? And how long will it take if your proposal is refused and your ex-partner has an alternate proposal for the holidays? And how are you going to feel as you wait for a response?
If your lawyer is unable to resolve your parenting and property issues through negotiations, then your lawyer may recommend filing an application with the court. If your matter is not urgent, there are long delays. Unfortunately, the wait for a final hearing can take years. I was recently informed that the delay in the Parramatta Registry was up to 4 years, while the delay for a final hearing at Lismore is approximately eighteen months to two years. If you want more information about present waiting times for urgent, interim or final hearings, you can contact the National Enquiry Centre on 1300 352 000.
Mediation - recommended by those who know best
The advantages of mediation were summarised by the Honourable Justice Watts of the Family Court of Australia: "There are obvious advantages to people who are able to settle their case by way of mediation. The most obvious is that they both end up with a result that they can live with and they can then move on with their lives. They also avoid being caught in a system which strains to get through the number of cases that are requiring judicial determination. They avoid the cost of expensive litigation and the risk of being involved after a judge has made a decision in the appellant processes.” In other words, you avoid the possibility that the trial judge's decision will be appealed resulting in further delay and uncertainty.