The cost, complexity and confrontation involved in going to court after the break up of a family unit is something most people would really like to avoid.
The whole process can add another level of trauma and stress on everyone involved, particularly children. The courts, as well, are struggling under the weight of the number of family matters coming before them for resolution.
This is why alternative methods of resolving disputes such as mediation have become more and more popular when it comes to family breakdown, making the process – when done in the proper way – quicker and less fractious.
There are some essential things to take into account before embarking on mediation of a family law dispute, set out in general terms below.
Achieving a successful outcome – whether it’s mediation about parenting arrangements or finances – hinges on how well you’ve prepared before the discussion.
This includes issues ranging from working out who will pick up the kids from school and look after them on the day of mediation, to coming up with a list of your key priorities for discussion on the day and a firm idea of what you will regard as a successful outcome.
Preparing properly will be greatly aided by consulting a legal professional experienced in family mediation. Many lawyers these days are also qualified in conducting mediations and can help clarify and guide the process for you so that the discussion is not considered wasted time.
The key to successful mediation is finding common ground between the parties, not emphasising or heightening areas where you both disagree. This involves a degree of empathy on the part of both parties, requiring you to think about what your ex-partner, for example, will want to achieve from the mediation process.
Both of you need to be well aware of what you can and can’t live with, in terms of resolving the issues at hand. This will require negotiation, compromise and probably some imagination in order to overcome obstacles and areas of difference. Without the appropriate mindset, however, you’re unlikely to reach mediated settlement.
Check your emotions
There are few things in life that can arouse high emotions like matters involving your family. And while it’s natural to feel stress and emotion in any attempt to seek resolution of all the issues surrounding a family breakdown, it’s equally important to control these feelings in the mediation process. Anger and anxiety can impair your thinking and the negotiations needed to achieve a result.
There are many ways to deal with such strong emotions, from writing down your feelings and reactions to try and externalise them, to talking to trusted family members or – on the day or days of mediations – asking to take a break if the discussions are becoming overwhelming.
Most importantly remember to approach mediation with a constructive mindset. Saying things designed to ‘destroy’ or assassinate the character of the other party is a sure path to failure of the process.
Make sure you have support
Whether it’s your trusted legal advocate or someone closer such as a long-time friend that you choose as a support person, consider whether you need an extra hand at a family law mediation. If it’s a friend or family member, it’s important that they be someone who won’t express strong opinions or influence your decisions in the matter at hand. They are there as emotional reinforcement. Be aware this person may not be able to be present in the room during the mediation discussion due to the need for confidentiality.
The combination of an experienced family law mediator and parties who are prepared for mediation after consulting legal professionals with experience in this area can ensure a family break up doesn’t necessarily end up in court. If you have any questions about the issues raised above, contact us today.