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What Is Mediation And How Do I Prepare For It?

March 9, 2017

When a couple decides to separate, strong emotions and financial uncertainty can make it difficult for them to agree on a parenting plan for the future.

In conflict situations where couples are unable to work out arrangements for their children (such as where the children will live and how much time they will spend with each parent), they are compelled by the Family Law Act to try mediation (known as Family Dispute Resolution or FDR), prior to making an application in the Family Court of Western Australia, with a qualified Family Lawyer as a mediator.

Mediation is a confidential process which encourages separating couples to have a conversation about parenting arrangements in a safe and respectful way.  It is facilitated by an experienced, independent and impartial mediator (known as a Family Dispute Resolution Practitioner) and held at a neutral venue.    The mediator does not give legal advice but can guide and facilitate the discussion on parenting, financial and property issues.

The desired outcome is for separating couples to formulate a plan which can then be reviewed by lawyers and converted into a formal Consent Order through the Family Court.   It’s a faster, much cheaper and more empowering process and is generally preferable to going to court because decisions on the children’s welfare and splitting of property etc are made by those who know the children best.

The following issues can be resolved by FDR:

  • The children’s living arrangements
  • Education and afterschool activities
  • Practicalities of changeovers
  • Division of school holidays
  • Possible relocation
  • Details of an agreement for a parent to take the children overseas (where, how long for etc)
  • Property settlements

How do I prepare for mediation?

Good preparation will help achieve a positive outcome through this process.

The more informed you are, the more likely you will be to be able to identify the issues clearly, develop options and understand probable and possible outcomes – and the very best way to do this is to consult an experienced family lawyer before your mediation.   They will help you understand your legal rights in terms of family and property law, tell you about the mediation process and advise on any documentation that’s required to support your case.

Good preparation will also help you answer questions like:

  • What are the issues under dispute?
  • What are the best interests of the children?
  • What am I prepared to discuss?
  • What are the options for ending the dispute?
  • Am I being realistic?
  • Would I get what I want if I went to Court?
  • How far am I prepared to negotiate?

Preparing for mediation may take a little time and effort but the more you put in, the more likely you are to achieve a constructive outcome.  It can be enormously beneficial if you learn as much as you can ahead of time about how mediation works, get the facts and understand the procedures so that you don’t have any unexpected surprises.

Paterson & Dowding is one of the most highly regarded firms of family lawyers in Perth and Joondalup and has a team of highly experienced and qualified Mediators who accept instructions in all areas of mediation including financial and parenting matters.  All of our separation lawyers are qualified to represent parties during mediation and we also have several lawyers who are Nationally Accredited Mediators, a Mediation Style Conference Convenor and a Family Dispute Resolution Practitioner.

If you want to learn more about how Family Dispute Resolution and Mediation can help separating or separated couples reach agreement on parenting disputes without having to go to Court, please contact us on 08 9226 3300 or visit our website, www.patersondowding.com.au.  There you’ll find comprehensive information on all matters relating to divorce and family law as well as details of our team of skilled, experienced and approachable family lawyers in Perth.

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