What Happens at Mediation?

If you have agreed, or been ordered by the Court, to attend Alternative Dispute Resolution, which is a form of Mediation, you may be wondering what happens.  

 

A Mediation can be held to resolve care arrangements for your children, a property dispute or both.  

 

Mediation can last anywhere between 3 hours and a full day. As such, you should arrange to take a day of annual leave from your employment and arrange for a family member or friend to collect the children from school.  

 

To attend Mediation, you will need to agree to appoint an independent mediator. In Western Australia, this will either be a retired judicial officer, who now specializes in mediation or a Barrister or Family Law Solicitor who is also trained as a mediator. There are also cheaper services available through the Dispute Resolution Unit at Legal Aid Western Australia, if you or your former spouse is able to qualify for these services. 

 

Once a Mediator has been agreed, all parties will then need to complete some pre-mediation paperwork. This helps the mediator understand your case and often include a schedule of assets, liabilities and superannuation (if it is a financial mediation) and the issues which need to be discussed which you do not agree about (if it is a child-related mediation). 

 

If the matter is already before the Court, you will also need to provide any documents filed for the proceedings to the mediator. 

 

Once the mediator has been appointed, and all of the documents provided, the parties, and their solicitors if they are represented, will then attend a pre-mediation meeting with the mediator.  

 

This pre-mediation meeting gives the mediator a chance to meet the parties, and to discuss the structure and conduct of the Mediation with the parties. The mediator will also discuss any issues that they have identified from the parties’ documents.  

 

Once the day of the Mediation arrives, it may be carried out in a few different ways such as: 

 

  1. A shuttle conference – in this instance the parties do not meet, and the mediator will go between the parties to convey offers of settlement that one party may wish to make to the other; 
  2. The conference may formally convene, and the parties meet in one room to discuss any issues 
  3. A combination of the two above options – the parties may formally convene to discuss any issues which need to be discussed, and then a shuttle conference occurs where offers of settlement may be made. 

There is no style that is better than the others, and the mediator will usually suggest a style that they believe will suit the parties the best, and provides the best chance of assisting the parties with resolving their dispute.  

 

If you need advice in relation to proceedings in the Family Court of WA, please contact us on 08 9221 2666 or reception@calverleyjohnston.com.au to make an appointment to speak to one of our solicitors.

Parenting Plans vs Court Orders

Quite often, parents will reach an agreement for the care arrangements for their children, without the need to go to Court. 

 

If you and your former spouse reach an agreement regarding the arrangements for your children and you would like that put in writing so the arrangements are clear for both parents, you might consider: 

  • A Parenting Plan; or 
  • A Form 11 Application for Consent Orders (“Form 11”) and a Minute, which will become Court Orders.  

 

A Parenting Plan is more informal than Court Orders and sets out how parents will care for the children of their relationship. A Parenting Plan is usually entered into after parties have been to mediation or have come to an amicable agreement about how they will parent their children. 

 

Parenting Plans provide parents with more flexibility than Court Orders as they can set out arrangements in relation to children, over which the Court has no power. For example, as parents, you may agree upon how your children are introduced to a new partner in the future and when that might occur. 

 

A Parenting Plan should be signed by both parents as a sign of their intention and shared commitment to follow the agreement they have reached. If one parent decides not to follow the Parenting Plan, there are no consequences as a Parenting Plan is not a binding document. A Parenting Plan does, however, evidence the intentions of the parties, should it become necessary for a parent to engage a family lawyer or initiate Court proceedings in the future. 

 

Court Orders on the other hand, are binding on parents and must be adhered to strictly. If one parent does not follow Court Orders, then the other parent is able to commence Court proceedings to enforce the Orders. 

 

Whilst Court Orders provide certainty to parents about the care arrangements for their children, they are not “final”. If there is a significant change of circumstances or a sufficient passage of time has passed since the Court Orders were made, one parent may choose to ask the Court to change the Orders. 

  

An example of what the Court considers to be a significant change in circumstances is one parent needing to relocate for work purposes (of themselves or a new partner). 

 

If you need advice in relation to formalising care arrangements for your children, please contact us to make an appointment to explore the options available to you.