Family Mediation Process: A Step-by-Step Guide

Going to court to resolve family disputes can be expensive, time-consuming and emotionally draining. That’s why mediation is an ideal alternative to the court system for many families. But what does the family mediation process entail? We are going to provide you with a deeper understanding of what mediation is and what you can expect during the process.


What is Family Mediation?

Family mediation is the negotiation process where people involved in a dispute come together to resolve their issues with the help of a neutral third party. A mediator’s job is to help both parties determine their issues, find common ground and work out a mutual agreement. They will not tell the parties what agreement should be made or offer any legal advice. The family mediation process can take place either face to face in a neutral environment, in separate rooms with the mediator travelling between the two parties (shuttle mediation) or over a telephone conference call.


What Are The Benefits of Mediation?

The family mediation process offers many benefits to families:

  • It is efficient – a dispute can usually settle within a few sessions.
  • It helps to preserve relationships – rather than go through years of litigation which could potentially destroy family relationships, mediation’s focus is to find common ground and solutions that suit both parties.
  • It is informal – unlike the court procedure, family mediation is an informal process that does not require lawyer representation. However, some individuals do feel more comfortable having a lawyer present.
  • It is flexible – unlike a lawsuit, both parties have more say in the negotiations, and more control over the results.
  • It is affordable – costs are significantly lower than litigation.
  • It is confidential – court cases are public, whereas mediation is typically confidential. Information revealed during this process cannot be used later in a trial or judicial proceeding.


What is Involved in the Family Mediation Process?

The family mediation process will generally involve the following steps.

Before mediation begins, your mediator can meet with you to explain the process and answer any questions. This step does not need to happen in person – it can happen over the phone.

On the day of your mediation, the first thing a mediator will do is give an opening statement. This statement includes a description of the role of the mediator and participants, the mediation process and any ground rules. The mediator should ask both parties to agree to this process.

Statement of the Problem
The mediator gives each party a chance to summarise their position and what they think the problem is in their own opening statement. By the end of these statements, both the mediator and the parties involved should have a better understanding of the issues.

Joint Discussion
The mediator will discuss the problems described by each party by asking open-ended questions to find out any additional information. Through this joint discussion, the mediator will be able to figure out what issues can be settled first.

Private Discussion
Both parties are then given the opportunity to discuss their opinions and thoughts with the mediator, or with their lawyers/support person. This private discussion is also the perfect opportunity to prepare for negotiations.

Now it’s time to negotiate. The mediator will help both parties identify and explore their options for an agreement

If the parties come to an agreement, the mediator will put the agreement in writing. This means that the agreement is legally binding.


Learn More About the Family Mediation Process

Should you and your formal spouse wish to learn if the family mediation process is for you, we can help. We have staff who hold formal accreditation in Family Dispute Resolution Practitioner (FDRP). Find out about our mediation services by giving us a call on (07) 3211 4920.