By Gianna Huesch
If you want to minimise the emotional and financial costs of divorce, have you considered mediation as a way to resolve your family law dispute? Here we take a look at the many proven benefits of choosing mediation.
What is mediation?
Mediation is a process which involves third party intervention in the form of trained, impartial mediators (who are barristers and solicitors) to facilitate a process whereby couples themselves negotiate the outcome and consequences of their divorce. It’s a way for ex-partners to resolve financial and parenting matters including the division of assets and liabilities and co-parenting arrangements while enjoying reduced costs, reduced hostility and reduced involvement of lawyers and courts. So what are the positive features of mediation?
· You can avoid a costly legal battle
The simple fact is that mediation costs far less than litigating. Litigating involves a great deal of paperwork, court appearances and hours of legal time, which quickly sees fees skyrocketing.
· You can avoid the huge delays in the family courts
Using mediation, disputes are settled in far less time than with adversarial disputes. Unfortunately, due to the increased number and complexity of court cases and the limited number of judges available to hear cases, lengthy delays (12 to 18 months at a minimum) are inevitable when proceeding through the court system. By contrast, mediated outcomes can be achieved in months, allowing you to move on with your life with certainty, faster.
· You have control over the process
One of the major benefits of mediation is the fact that the process enables you to maintain the most control over your future. You and your partner are assisted to reach agreement about disputed matters without the need for a judge to impose decisions on you. Whereas with litigation you can’t choose who will hear your case, with mediation you and your ex can decide who to engage as a private mediator.
Clients choosing mediation report feeling more heard and better understood and that they are participating in a process that is fairer for all parties. By contrast, litigating couples can experience the court system as intimidating, intrusive and impersonal. Mediated couples report feeling less rushed than in a courtroom and that they have more of an ability to express their own point of view which leads to greater satisfaction with the outcome.
· It can improve your relationship with your ex
Mediation generates greater mutual satisfaction by giving both parties the ability to discuss and resolve problems, which decreases the likelihood of conflict escalating. With the help of the trained mediators, ex-spouses are able to foster a respectful and cooperative ongoing relationship—and in many cases, the relationship is even perceived to have improved. This is because mediation helps prevent conflict by improving communication and helping clients understand the underlying causes of the conflict. It allows couples to deal with conflicts that arise in a more positive fashion, whereas going to court can often be detrimental to already strained relationships and exacerbate distrust. The traditional adversarial process can often seem to revolve around attributing blame instead of encouraging problem solving and finding resolution as with mediation.
· It’s better for the kids
Parents who want to structure their own solutions that are beneficial to them and their children are often dissatisfied with the traditional adversarial approach. With the appropriate help, parents are generally better equipped than courts to figure out parenting arrangements that best meet the needs of their restructured families.
Mediation helps parents focus on the needs of the children and facilitates co-parenting. In most cases, co-parenting is in the best interests of the kids, because it provides for the maximum input and time from both parents in their kids’ lives. Studies have shown that, unsurprisingly, there is a significant pattern of better adjustment for children with parent who are able to cooperate. Some studies have even pointed to greater father involvement when matters are mediated.
· It offers better longer term outcomes
Mediation is seen as contributing to achieving a more durable outcome than settlements imposed by a court in an adversarial process. There is usually better compliance with terms and greater long term satisfaction with the agreement.
Sometimes the argument is raised that women do worse from a financial perspective in mediation and that they can be disadvantaged by being forced into unfair agreements. However, the research does not support this. In fact, in some studies, women have reported that the process actually helped them assume more control over managing their personal affairs, and helped them stand up for themselves.
· Even a failed mediation has usually improved the situation
During the mediation process, the issues in dispute are narrowed down. Even if the mediation then fails to settle the dispute, the parties have usually greatly reduced the matters to be determined should the matter need to proceed to court. This translates to less court time being needed and may result in a quicker outcome. Achieving settlement before a final hearing is also more common with mediated matters.
Mediation has the potential to offer you a much more amicable settlement and way to negotiate parenting arrangements and should definitely be considered as a way for you to resolve your family law dispute. To discuss whether mediation may be the best option for you, please contact Cristina Huesch or one of or solicitors here at Alliance Family Law on (02) 6223 2400 to discuss your situation.