Manning River Times

Understanding the do's and don'ts of mediation and divorce

Understanding the do's and don'ts of mediation and divorce

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Separation and divorce is often a stressful and emotionally taxing time in anyone's life. Aside from having to deal with the reality of you and your partner going your separate ways, there are also matters relating to child custody, spousal maintenance and property settlement to consider.

Mediation is always the first step towards resolving these matters and avoiding time consuming, costly and often stressful court proceedings. If you have recently separated from your partner and are looking for more information on the mediation process, you've come to the right place.

Today, we share the top 10 do's and don'ts of mediation and divorce in a bid to make the process smoother and more beneficial for all parties involved. Read on to find out more.

1. DO: Get advice from a qualified expert

If there is only one piece of advice in this article to heed, it is to always, always get advice from an expert such as a family lawyer in Melbourne. Family law is a highly complex matter and an experienced family lawyer who thoroughly understands the separation and divorce procedure in Australia will be able to help you quickly start the mediation process on the right foot.

A lawyer's role is to provide legal advice on issues raised/offers made during mediation, and to help in drafting the terms and conditions of settlement as agreed upon during the mediation process.

2. DON'T: Expect mediation to be completed quickly

In most cases, the mediation process can take anywhere between 2-5 hours. However, in more complex cases or situations where both parties are finding it slightly more challenging to agree upon certain matters, the process may take longer or in rare instances, require another mediation appointment/session.

3. DO: Obtain a qualified mediator

You and your former partner are able to choose your own accredited mediator via the Australian Mediation Association website. The role of a mediator is to impartially assist and guide you and your ex-spouse towards an amicable resolution. Keep in mind that the mediator does not decide the outcome, but instead will help both parties understand and focus on important issues needed to reach a resolution.

4. DON'T: Expect the mediator to get involved

A mediator is not involved in the decision making process, neither are they present to settle your issues for you. Instead, your mediator will simply assist you in coming to an amicable resolution with your ex-partner.

5. DO: Attend your mediation appointment

Both parties are required to be present during mediation. If either party is unable to physically attend the meeting, other means such as video-conferencing or teleconferencing are also a viable option. Although not mandatory, mediation is always recommended as a means to resolve conflict in the fastest and most inexpensive manner.

In the event where proceedings end up being filed in the court, the court may take into account a party's decision to not attend family dispute resolution which may have a negative effect on the final outcome of the case.

6. DON'T: Be intimidated by mediation

The truth is, mediation sounds a lot scarier than it actually is. In reality, family law mediation should be viewed as 'assisted negotiation' and is simply a process that aims to help parties come up with decisions after the breakdown of a relationship. This process is assisted by an professional (and impartial) mediator, meaning that you need not feel overwhelmed, intimidated or unfairly treated during the process.

7. DO: Be prepared to compromise

The mediation process is in essence, a time in which two parties come together to make reasonable compromises that both parties can live with. As such, it is vital that you attend mediation with an open mind and be able to compromise to a certain degree.

This is by no means simply accepting whatever is proposed, but instead taking the time to consider a settlement that is beneficial from an emotional and financial standpoint. The mediation can often be emotional and draining, so considering your options before you attend will help make the process smoother and a lot less uncomfortable.

8. DON'T: Be untruthful

Mediation can only be successful when both parties involved are truthful and genuine. Attempting to trick the other side or stretch the truth will only work against you and may lead to an unfavourable result on your part. Honesty is the best policy, so don't let lies infiltrate the mediation.

9. DO: Submit a proposal ahead of time

Having an understanding of the other party's view and position on matters prior to the mediation session can lead to a much more productive discussion. As such, it is always recommended that you submit your proposal ahead of time and vice versa. Not only does this give the other party some time to consider your proposal, but it also assists the mediator in structuring the negotiations.

10. DON'T: Think of it as winning or losing

Last but not least, you should always avoid going into mediation thinking that there is going to be a winner and a loser. Mediation is not about winning - it is simply about coming to an agreement that works for both parties. Going in with the desire to "win" will only get in the way of coming up with mutual agreements and may have a negative impact on the overall meeting. Instead, we recommend going in with a positive attitude and an open mind for successful and effective mediation.

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And there you have it - the top 10 do's and don'ts of mediation and divorce. Did we miss something? What do you think?