Family Law Library

Mediation and Family Dispute Resolution

Mediation Transcript

Hi, I’m Vanessa Mathews from Mathews Family Law, and today we’ll be discussing mediation.

Many couples facing the end of their marriage feel confused about how to resolve the many issues that come up. Well-meaning friends and relatives might recommend running to an aggressive lawyer who can help you battle out in court, but I want to use this video to tell you about different ways of solving your problems that can help everyone to feel that they were treated fairly and with respect.

You and your spouse have the ability to choose how you will go about reaching an agreement. Despite what you may have heard from sensational articles in the media or even through friends, most family disagreements in Australia end with a settlement. This means that most couples do not go to court to work out child custody issues, property division, or maintenance. They sit down together, sometimes with the help of professionals, and work through the problem.

Mediation is an alternative approach to resolving disagreements between couples. In Australia, it’s frequently used for figuring out property issues, and it’s also used for parenting disputes. Rather than going to court and have a judge determine how best to solve your problems, mediation allows you to control the process and the outcome.

So how does mediation work? A third neutral and objective person serves as a mediator whose role is to facilitate communication between you and your spouse to help you reach an agreement that you’re both comfortable with. The mediator helps you figure out what your interests are, what your actual needs are, and what is fair to everyone.

There are many benefits to mediation. One is that you’re involved in the process and the final decision. If you don’t like the way the process is going, you can say so and even leave the mediation. You’re in control. No judge makes a final ruling for you that you might not like. You have the right to accept or reject any agreement. Another benefit of mediation is that it gives you a lot of flexibility.

Together with the mediator and your partner, you set up times for meetings. This means you don’t have to miss work or find babysitters, or be controlled by court dates. The settings for mediation is also much more comfortable: usually in the mediator’s office and definitely not in a courtroom. Mediation is usually much shorter than going to court, limiting the time to weeks or just a few months.

When it comes to parenting issues, family dispute resolution, or FDR, is a very good option. This is a type of mediation that’s required by the courts when parents can’t come to an agreement on their own. These mediators are trained in the area of family disputes, and they usually have a background in law, social work, or psychology. They help couples figure out what’s best for their children. If you and your partner can work out a parenting plan on your own, that’s great. If you can’t, and you need to go to court to get a judge to decide, you first have to attend FDR and show the court you’ve both a good effort to resolve your problems.

I often recommend to clients to get legal advice when you’re in mediation, and I would recommend that you do have a lawyer. The lawyer’s role is to make sure you know your legal rights and obligations, and to help you understand the legal consequences of the decisions that you make in the mediation.

Sometimes lawyers actually attend the mediation sessions if both sides agree. It’s helpful to have a lawyer in mediation because sometimes there is a power imbalance between you and your spouse where one is stronger, or louder, or takes advantage of the other. Having a lawyer there can help balance the sides. But even if you don’t have a lawyer with you, you have the right to call your lawyer, or anyone else, to ask questions. Mediation agreements reached without each of you understanding your legal rights can result in failed negotiations or even broken agreements.

If you have more questions about mediation or family dispute resolution, or want to learn more about them, you can take a look at our other videos and at our website, or feel free to call me. I’m Vanessa Mathews at Mathews Family Law.