How can I resolve my dispute without the costs and distress of court?
The answer is mediation. This is how mediation can help.
Q1 What is mediation?
Mediation is a process whereby a trained mediator will work with parties to a dispute, with the goal of reaching agreement and resolving the dispute. The discussion takes place in a controlled environment, where everyone gets to have their say and be heard. If you’ve ever felt that you “just can’t talk to your partner because they don’t listen” – or maybe its so hard to say what you want to say because of emotions – then mediation is for you.
Q2. Is mediation expensive?
Not compared to court! Fees vary amongst mediators of course but I cap my fees at $1750 which is ideally shared between the parties to the mediation. Whereas, court can cost upwards of $50,000 per person. There is also the option of places like Relationships Australia and Centacare which offer free or very low-cost mediation.
It is by far the better process than having the court decide your matter. It allows you to create your own solutions, instead of having an outcome imposed upon you by a court. And it is affordable. You will save tens of thousands of dollars going to court.
Q3. How quickly can I get a mediation arranged?
Some of the organisations that run mediations do have waiting lists but private mediators can generally arrange a mediation within weeks. If the mediation involves family law property settlements, the mediator will require that the parties exchange documents (as to values and so on) prior to the mediation which can sometimes slow the process, but usually a mediation can be done in a short time frame – a matter of weeks. Whereas most court cases take years.
Q4. I just don’t think I can sit in the same room with my ex – do I have to?
You don’t have to, you can ask the mediator for a ‘shuttle’ mediation which means you each sit in separate rooms and the mediator goes back and forth between you.
Q5. Can I bring someone with me? Like a support person, or my solicitor?
Yes, so long as the mediator agrees. It’s my practice to allow it if everyone agrees but the support person can not be involved in the discussion. Also if one person brings a lawyer I’d prefer the other did as well.
Q6. What if my ex uses what I say in mediation against me in court?
They can’t. It is a rule with every mediation, that what is said at mediation is confidential and cannot be relayed in court proceedings. This means parties can make offers, concessions, or admissions freely without being worried about this information being used against them in court.
Q7. There is stuff I just don’t want my ex to know about…do I have to disclose everything?
You can talk to the mediator at any time in a private session and work out what it troubling you.
Q8. Is it too late if we are already in court?
It is never too late to resolve a dispute! Its like giving up smoking – as soon as you stop you start to feel the benefits. AS soon as you can end a dispute, the sooner your costs end.
Q9. What if the other person is abusive or puts me down?
There is always the shuttle option, but if you have a face to face mediation, the mediator will insist that parties deal with each other (and the mediator) with respect. The mediator will simply not allow interruptions or abuse.
Q10. But we haven’t been able to agree anything before, why is mediation so different?
You might not have been able to agree because of the process or format of your discussion – for example around the kitchen table, when you are both emotional, when there are interruptions and distractions. Perhaps you’re not listening to each other. Perhaps you are not able to say how you really feel or what you really want, Mediation allows you to have your say in a controlled way. It is the mediator’s job to control the process, let everyone talk in turn, develop a list of both party’s issues, and make sure they are discussed.
You have nothing to lose, even if you don’t end up in total agreement you might be able to narrow the issues in dispute; and at the very least you will come away from the mediation with a better understanding of the other person’s issues.
Mediate, don’t litigate!