Mediation is a proven way for people to avoid going to court. Family law mediation, in particular, can save people who are going through the emotional trauma of a relationship ending a lot of stress, time and money because of its high success rate.
The reason this form of negotiation works is because it brings a couple together in a structured but informal environment to clearly and calmly discuss the issues between them, guided by a neutral third party in the form of an expert mediator.
This voluntary method takes away the sometimes overbearing influence of lawyers and the adversarial nature of the court environment and instead gives control to the former couple to make their own decisions about how best to separate their lives and move forward.
But like anything in life, preparation is the key. Family law mediation requires some prior planning and work by each party in order for it to be successful. Here’s a few things to take note of…
Work out the key issues beforehand
It’s more than likely that both of you will know the main areas of disagreement or contention arising from the separation. These could relate to the children from the relationship, property matters, finances, or many other possible topics.
What’s important is that you are clear about which issues you wish to raise for discussion during the mediation. Making a list and perhaps ranking each issue by priority or importance is one way of ordering your thoughts.
Ideally you provide this list of topics to your ex-spouse ahead of the mediation session so that they can be similarly prepared and ready to constructively discuss each area of disagreement.
Have your documents organised
In support of the issues you wish to try and resolve through mediation, it’s wise to have all relevant documentation organised and at hand before the appointment.
If you’re discussing property and financial matters, this could mean having valuations, bank statements and tax returns with you. If you’re discussing child custody matters, it will be beneficial to have any child support assessment documents with you, for example.
Again, it’s good practice to make sure your ex-spouse has copies of these documents before the mediation appointment. Producing ‘surprise’ documents on the day can lead to a breakdown of negotiations, wasting everyone’s time and money.
Take a realistic view of your options
Working out the issues that need to be addressed is one thing, but deciding the best course of action to take in resolving them is an altogether different proposition.
It’s best to discuss the various options that may arise with a legal professional before the mediation appointment so that you have some certainty about which options are preferable and realistic. For instance, if you plan to suggest buying out your ex-partner’s share of the family home, it’s best to know whether you will have the financial capability to do so before the mediation.
Similarly, with child custody matters, it’s advisable to properly understand what your children’s preferences are in terms of shared living arrangements and how they can be achieved.
It’s important in undertaking this process to think about how your ex-partner will respond, and what they may ask for in return. By doing so you will be more prepared to respond effectively and appropriately during the mediation.
Be prepared to give some ground
No one gets everything they want through mediation. But unlike court decisions, which usually produce a clear ‘winner’ and ‘loser’, a settlement negotiated through family law mediation provides both parties with a resolution they can live by.
Naturally this process involves some compromise – that’s what negotiation is. It’s best to be prepared ahead of the mediation appointment and understand where you are willing to give some ground on the relevant issues… as well as where you are not.
Our expert Gold Coast mediation specialists can provide helpful advice and guidance on all the issues raised in this article to ensure you are properly prepared for mediation. By doing so, you can take the benefit from mediation’s best features: a quick, affordable and legally binding agreement that allows you to move on with your life.