Family Law Mediation
When separation is new and children’s best interests are to be worked out, many couples find it difficult to negotiate without the help of a neutral third party, a mediator.
Most parents want to avoid going to court and, in Australia, the Commonwealth has a system to help them work out their own parenting solutions, with the help of a Family Dispute Resolution Practitioner.
Rosalin is an FDRP in private practice on Queensland’s Sunshine Coast and she also offers service to people in more rural and remote areas by use of phone and electronic communication.
There are Federally funded services that have long wait lists and there are lawyer mediators too. Rosalin sits between them, with reasonable fees and no waiting lists. She has been working in the family law field as a psychologist for 15 years, providing mediation and report writing services.
Her best hope is that with a little help, parents can put aside their differences to focus on the best interests of their children. When they can do that, the children benefit enormously from having collaborative parents who are civil with each other.
Mediation of parenting matters is done after careful preparation. It sometimes involves support people coming in as well. Each parent meets with Rosalin confidentially, to help with an assessment of whether mediation is likely to succeed, and to design an approach most likely to help parents stay comfortable and creative about their arrangements for their children.
If mediation seems to be appropriate, a joint session is scheduled when both parents can be child free and able to focus on their children’s needs. Solicitors sometimes attend with their clients, if both parents are comfortable with that. If solicitors are present, they can be very reassuring, while offering a perspective on how things might go if litigation became necessary, for both parenting and property/financial matters.
As mediation progresses and some agreements are made, your mediator will draft those agreements and check back with you about the wording of each clause. If you reach full agreement, Rosalin will provide you with copies of the completed draft. You then have time to check with your advisors if you want to, before signing and dating your mediated Parenting Plan.
A Parenting Plan can be used as an informal agreement between you or be used as the basis for an application for Consent Orders, if you prefer your agreement to be legally binding.
Once your mediation is concluded, whether or not you reach agreement, you will get a Certificate from your FDRP, and that is evidence that you have approached your children’s matter through mediation first, so that if either parent needs to make an application to a court, that 60i Certificate can be shown.
The Three Stages Of Financial & Property Mediation
Mediation of property and financial matters is a three stage process. It is useful to have legal advice before beginning this process because, unlike Parenting Plans, financial agreements that become the subject of an Order cannot easily be re-opened.
In the first stage, Rosalin works with a spreadsheet to produce a picture of your assets and liabilities, using your own estimates of the values of what you own and what you owe. That way, you arrive at a property pool value that you both agree upon, or you may have to get valuations of items, where you do not agree.
In the second stage, Rosalin helps you to discuss the factors you think should be considered in making an agreement to separate financially. Typically they are differences in the parties’ capacity to earn or their education levels, their ages or health status, who has care of children or who may have a resource such as an inheritance. Your solicitor can help you with this assessment.
In the last stage, you try to reach agreement about the percentages you will use to split the property pool figure into two piles, whether that be amounts of money, or things you own. This is expressed as percentages of the property pool.
Again, as you make agreements, your mediator records them and later drafts a description, with you, of the steps you will take to give effect to separating the money and the goods. That draft can then be used to get any financial, taxation or legal advice you need before signing and dating the agreement.
The signed and dated agreement can then be used as the basis for applying to the court to make your agreement into a Consent Order. Until you take that step, your agreement is not legally binding.