Are you wondering whether or not you should attend family mediation? It can be a very helpful and productive process, but it’s not right for everyone. Read on below to find out more about family mediation and whether it is the right choice given your circumstances.
What is family mediation?
Family mediation is a process that allows families to come to agreements on family matters, usually related to child care and custody. The process is facilitated by a third-party mediator whose job it is to remain neutral and guide discussion. They are not there to provide advice or tell divorcing or separating couples what they ‘should’ do, instead they are simply there to keep the lines of communication open and help them to reach their own agreements.
What are the benefits?
Family mediation is often recommended when parents are having a hard time trying to reach agreements about how they should manage custody and care after a relationship breakdown. Family mediation offers a number of benefits to participants. Firstly, it gives them more control over the process and does not leave all the decision-making to the courts. Secondly, it is much less stressful than a contentious court battle and can help to make communication better which can help ex-partners to parent more amicably in the future rather than forcing them into a situation where bad feelings are stirred up. Family mediation also allows for arrangements to be more easily reviewed and updated in the future and is often much faster and much cheaper than going to court.
Are agreements legally binding?
Agreements made through this process are not enforceable in court but can be made legally binding with consent orders.
What happens during family mediation?
During a session, you can expect the mediator to try and understand your situation and look to open up communication between you both. It may take several sessions before an agreement can be reached as you mediator will need to establish what the main issues are and steer the conversation in a direction that allows you both to reach an agreement. Once you have agreed, your mediator will create a memorandum so you both know what you have agreed to.
Do I have to go?
This can be a voluntary process but the courts can order that you attend. Nowadays if you want assistance resolving matters in court, you’ll be ordered to attend at least one session. You won’t however need to go if you are simply applying for consent order or if there are serious issues between you and your ex-partner such as domestic violence or child abuse.
What should I expect from my mediator?
Mediators are expected to be entirely neutral. They are not there to take sides or tell you what outcomes they would prefer to see. They are not there to influence outcomes, instead they are there to help you have a conversation and reach your own agreements.
How long does it take?
Most mediations sessions last between 45 minutes to a few hours and you’ll typically attend a few sessions. The process is usually considerably shorter than attending court.
How much does it cost?
Sessions are quite inexpensive and usually the process will cost a few thousand. Court on the other hand can be dramatically more expensive.
What if an agreement can’t be reached?
The process is not always successful and sometimes you won’t be able to reach an amicable agreement between you. If no agreement can be reached then you’ll need to proceed to court to have your matter heard and sorted out.