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With 10 years as the Registrar at the Family Court helping people solve family law disputes, Debra Parker of Family Law Firm Parker Coles Curtis is a household name when it comes to family law mediation.
Debra’s excellence and achievements as a mediator in private practice have earned her several accolades, including an Australasian Law Award.
Debra’s top tips for mediation will help you understand the process and boost your chances of reaching an agreement. Here are five things you need to know about family law mediation:
Mediation isn’t as scary as it sounds
Family law mediation is a process to help with making decisions after a relationship transition, such as separation or divorce, without going to Court. You could think of it as ‘assisted negotiation’.
A family law mediator guides you and the other party through the issues and key decisions. They are neutral and help broker agreement by focusing on your objectives and interests. The Australian Institute of Family Law Arbitrators and Mediators has a neat definition you can read here.
You can attend family law mediation with or without lawyers. Government-funded organisations such as Relationships Australia offer mediation, or you can opt for a Nationally Accredited Mediator.
You can mediate at any time during your family law matter
There is no ‘right’ time to attend family law mediation. You can mediate at any point in your family law matter. Sometimes you might focus on specific issues and defer others to a later mediation session.
After a separation, it is often preferable to attend family law mediation as early as you can, and when you feel ready to do so. Family change is a difficult and stressful time.
Family law mediation can help avoid conflict escalating and ease some of the uncertainty that follows a relationship breakdown. This can help maintain amicable relations with the other party.
Family law mediation is typically significantly less expensive than Court based processes, even when lawyers are involved.
You can return to family law mediation at any time after your separation, as issues arise. If your communication with the other party is difficult, family law mediation can help by facilitating a productive discussion and ‘reality test’ everyone’s perspectives.
A skilled mediator can often help move things forward if you’re stuck in a stalemate.
You don’t have to face the other party during mediation
You don’t have to face the other party during family law mediation. If you feel uneasy about being in the same room, a shuttle mediation can be arranged.
Shuttle mediations have the parties in different rooms in the one location, and the mediator moves between them to facilitate the discussion.
Most mediators will conduct a screening assessment to determine whether the matter is appropriate for mediation or if there are safety or family violence concerns.
You should let the mediator, or your lawyer know if you are concerned about your personal safety or ability to participate at mediation.
Preparation is key
The first step in arranging a mediation is to have the other party’s agreement to attend a mediation. Either the mediation provider can take care of this for you, or your lawyer can arrange it.
Both parties need to be present and come ready to mediation to have a productive discussion to talk through the issues to try to reach an agreement that suits both of them, and if there are children, most of all to agree on what is best for them.
Together you will select your mediator and the date for mediation. If you’re not sure about what service provider to use, we can talk you through the options and make a recommendation. We will take into account the number and type of issues that need solving and the personalities of the parties.
You will likely be asked by the mediator to prepare certain documents for the mediation, to explain how you see the issues and your suggested solutions for them. You can have a lawyer help you draw up your mediation papers and proposals so you go into the session fully prepared.
If you’re electing to attend without a lawyer, we can meet with you for a pre-mediation preparation session to help plan your strategy, to identify the information you’ll need to gather before your session and advise you about possible proposals you could make (or that the other party might make to you). We can also give you information about your options to legally record any agreement you may reach at mediation to make it legally binding.
It doesn’t have to be a drawn-out or painful process and you don’t have to have a lawyer—but it helps if you do!
Not only is it efficient and cost-effective, parties who mediate have more control over the process and the outcome.
You can determine the dates for mediation, decide on the location, the mediator and the delivery mode. Cut through the red tape and long delays of Court proceedings. Many mediation services offer virtual sessions, conducted via phone or video link, making the process accessible to all.
The length of a mediation varies, depending on the nature of the dispute and the level of agreement between you the other party. Typically, a minimum of three hours is required but often a full day is taken.
You don’t have to have a lawyer attend with you at mediation, but it helps if you do!The benefit of having an experienced family lawyer present with you during the mediation is that they can explain to you in ‘real time’ how the family laws of Australia apply to the proposals you make, or the other party makes to you. This can assist you in making decisions during negotiations and help avoid decision regret afterwards.
A lawyer can also explain how proposals might affect your rights and entitlements, and how any agreements that are reached can be formalised and enforced after the mediation.
You can book a mediation with Debra here.
All of our lawyers are experts in helping clients prepare for and secure good outcomes at mediation. If you’d like to meet with one of our lawyers to help you prepare for mediation, or discuss your representation at mediation, you can do so here.
Founded by a dynamic team of women, Parker Coles Curtis is Canberra’s newest boutique family law firm. Run by specialist family lawyers Debra Parker, Catherine Coles and Jacquelyn Curtis, Parker Coles Curtis are experts in helping people find solutions in both amicable and high-conflict separations. They help culturally and linguistically diverse families and the LGBTIQ+ community.
This powerhouse team provide down to earth and practical advice with an empathetic approach. They help you to resolve your family law problems, stay calm and focus on a new beginning. Parker Coles Curtis assist with custody, property division, child support, divorce and family violence matters.
Call Parker Coles Curtis on (02) 5114 2660 or visit parkercolescurtis.com.au