What is mediation?
Mediation is a well-recognised means of family dispute resolution among both family law professionals and the general public.
A simple definition of mediation is ‘assisted negotiation’ but that is only the beginning and does not help to explain the process properly.
Mediation as a form of dispute resolution has a long history. It comes in many forms and there are multiple definitions.
The Mediator Standards’ Board describes mediation as:
‘. . . a process in which the participants, with the support of the mediator, identify issues, develop options, consider alternatives and make decisions about future actions and outcomes. The mediator acts as a third party to support participants to reach their own decision. Approval Standards November 2008.’
Mediation offers an informal means of resolving disputes, without the need for preparation of expensive documents and without the need for attendance at court events.
- Mediations take place at a time and location to suit the parties and the mediator.
- Mediation offers an opportunity for parties to tailor the process and the resolution of their dispute to suit their needs and circumstances.
- Mediation is private.
- Mediation usually costs much less for a family than litigation, with the result that more of the family’s property is available to the parties and their children.
What happens at mediation?
Every mediator has a unique model but common features include:
- Joint sessions that provide an opportunity for the parties or their representatives to set out their interests / concerns to the other party or representative;
- Private sessions with the mediator to discuss possible agreements to meet each party’s particular interests / concerns;
- Joint sessions to discuss preferred outcomes;
- Recording of agreements reached; and
- If agreement isn’t reached, assistance with narrowing issues between the parties, thereby reducing Court time and expense.
Mediators almost without exception require each party to a mediation to agree that everything said at the mediation is confidential and may not be used in any subsequent court proceeding.
Mediators are aware of the need to preserve safety for parties and to ensure that each party is able to negotiate on a level playing field.
Mediators are trained to recognise power imbalances between parties and to take steps to promote parties’ self-determination in the mediation.
Who are the mediators?
In Australia mediators are increasingly specifically trained professionals who are accredited by bodies such as AIFLAM after having complied with national training standards. This web site provides details of Institute members all of whom are Nationally Accredited Mediators and most of whom are also experienced family lawyers; thereby bringing with them a depth of understanding of family law.