An alternative to court that you’ve probably heard of is mediation. But you may not be sure of what that involves.
There is no set formula for mediation, but the basic concept is that a neutral mediator facilitates discussion between people to help them come to an agreement.
This can be done with a mediator only, or it can include lawyers, counsellors, and other experts. It all comes down to your mediator and what you want.
In terms of who can be a mediator, anyone can be. It is quite common for barristers, solicitors, former judges, psychologists and social workers to work as mediators. All mediators are different, and it is a good idea to ask for recommendations from people you know.
Benefits of Mediation
Mediation can be a great solution to disagreements, and a good way to avoid the conflict and costs of court. You are able to speak to your partner directly, providing the opportunity to build bridges and often to improve the relationship, so you can have functional discussions.
It is cost efficient. You are speaking directly, so you miss out on the correspondence costs that come with hiring lawyers to talk for you, not to mention avoiding all the costs that come with court. It is usually low cost, and can be government subsidised if you go through a government organisation.
It also gives you the opportunity to discuss the issues that matter to you, not just what matters to the law.
Limitations of Mediation
As with all avenues, there are some limitations of mediation. One of these is not coming to a resolution within your time frame. It could take longer than the expected time to sort through things, and this could be because of a range of factors. One party may not be ready to mediate, or both parties could simply not have all the information and spend much of the time getting caught up. In that sense, it is always best to go into a mediation fully prepared.
Mediators can’t provide legal or financial advice. They can provide information, but not suggest how you could apply this to your own situation.
Types of Mediation
Under the umbrella of mediation, there are different types. It’s important to choose the one that best suits your situation.
As the name suggests, this type of mediation centres on parents working out details in regards to their children. This is most often parenting plans, living arrangements, and the like. It is also possible to have a child psychologist who will speak on behalf of the children, after meeting with them, in which case it is called Child Inclusive Mediation. This form of mediation can be done privately, or through some community organisations.
This is mediation done through a private business, rather than a government funded organisation. As each mediator has their own background and specialties, it’s a good idea to find someone who can help with your specific requirements.
This form of mediation tends to focus on the legal issues. The mediator is a barrister and experienced family lawyer, and each party will be represented by lawyers. However, instead of engaging directly with each other, the parties remain in separate rooms and the lawyers speak on their behalf. This type of mediation is often entered into when previous negotiations between lawyers have failed. It is not a good form of mediation for repairing relationships.
Arbitration is not technically a form of mediation, but it is an alternative form of dispute resolution. It is usually a last-ditch effort before going to court, and is itself like a mini-court hearing. In arbitration, both parties (represented by a lawyer) present their case to the arbitrator, who will then make a legally binding ruling. Again, this is not about healing relationships, but about getting a final decision.
There you have it. Mediation is a good alternative dispute resolution, but it is important to do your research first. Find the right mediator for your specific needs and make sure you’re prepared with all the information before going in.
To find out more, read Breaking Up Without Breaking Down.