15 Jul 7 Factors to ensure you get the most out of mediation
What to expect at a family dispute mediation
WHAT IS MEDIATION?
Chances are, you or someone you know has either been through mediation or has been advised to seek intervention to help resolve a family dispute.
Defined by the Australian Government initiative, Family Relationships Online, mediation is described as “a way of resolving disputes between people in conflict, usually facilitated by a neutral person.” 
As long as all parties have an appetite to resolve their matters, mediation will give them this opportunity. By settling family and property disputes through mediation, everyone has the chance to tell their side of the story, put forward their suggestions, and make comments on the planned actions. This process can swiftly bring a matter to an end, and in doing so, save time and money for all concerned.
It is well known that protracted court battles often result in cases that have not sought mediation. Drawn out cases like this take time, money and emotional resources from both parties. Besides, they can take years to reach a final trial; at which point, all control of the outcome rests with the court.
WHEN WOULD I NEED TO GO TO MEDIATION?
Anything can be mediated; parenting matters, property matters, child support, the list goes on. If you have reached a point in negotiations where you and your ex-partner can not reach a consensus, before heading into court, a third-party mediator is your next step.
7 FACTORS TO ENSURE YOU GET THE MOST OUT OF MEDIATION
Everyone’s experience at mediation differs depending on the complexity of the issues and how prepared everyone is; it is essential to remember that this includes the lawyers and mediators as well as each of the other parties.
Mediation is a powerful tool, especially when each of the seven factors below is in alignment. While everyone’s experience will differ with the complexity of their issues, to get the most out of your mediation, you should:
- Choose a mediator that resonates with you and suits the specific problems you need to address;
- Be prepared:
– Find and collate all the necessary documentation;
– Make sure you are well-rested for your session/s. The process of dispute mediation can be emotionally draining, especially if you need to address traumatic or sensitive situations. It can be a distressing experience to hear emotionally raw things from a third party, whether they are factual or not, especially if it paints you in a poor light. Be aware also, if you have many matters to attend to, or if parties continually stray from the topic, for instance, physical exhaustion can result;
- Stay open. Even if you feel you have been doing the ‘right thing’ throughout your separation, your actions may not be perceived that way by everyone. Keep in mind that everyone has a different perspective and may respond to situations differently than you intended. Be open to seeing everyone’s actions in a way you may not have considered before.
- Know that it is your mediator’s job to play the intermediary for you and your former partner. When emotionally sensitive topics arise, it can be easy to disregard the attempts of the mediator, to get angry, or be resentful. Remember, mediation aims to reach agreements where you have not previously been able. The more work you can do here, the less likely it will be that you will need the services of the court;
- Keep your focus on the matters that actually affect the outcomes. Try not to dwell on small issues, or long-standing gripes, if their resolution has no bearing on the result you are hoping to attain;
- Ensure you understand your case and are fully briefed on the purpose and the process of mediation;
- Make sure the lawyer fully understands all aspects of your case and has appropriately prepared (as if a Judge will be looking over their work).
WHAT CONSTITUTES A SUCCESSFUL MEDIATION?
These above seven factors are the key ingredients of a successful mediation. It’s important to note, though, that ‘successful’ does not always mean you attain a final resolution. Sometimes, it serves as an essential and objective reality check of the facts, providing both parties with the opportunity to understand the other’s case a little better. It also allows you to see if any potential damage could be done to your case by your pursuit of something you thought was important; possibly resulting in the loss of more than you were hoping to gain.
The harsh truth is, this can be the level of understanding to which a party needs exposure, for them to decide to settle their matters out of court. And Judges do expect that parties will mediate their issues to reach an agreement so that the court’s involvement comes only as a last resort.
For further general information, go to the Australian Government’s Family Dispute Mediation factsheet, see our resources page, or contact Leisa to see how she can help you resolve your particular situation.