Lawyer Assisted Family Law Mediation

2 April 2019

By Lisa Wagner & Stephanie Ordanoska

There are many issues that arise for parties when they separate. These consequences are not simply limited to legal issues. Separating impacts upon a person’s emotional, economic, physical and social well-being. It can also result in a displacement of a person from their social support network. Lawyer assisted family law mediation is suited to accommodate these broader considerations.

It is relatively accessible, affordable and client driven.

And it empowers parties to achieve their own workable solutions once their intimate relationship has come to an end.

Lawyer assisted family law mediation provides a forum where intrapersonal interaction can safely take place. Non-verbal communication, which is often overlooked in the legal system can sometimes be more powerful than anything that a person may actually say. Lawyer assisted mediation facilitates this interaction between parties in a nonbiased and balanced way. It enables each party to really understand what options are feasible after separation and, at times, starts people communicating differently and more effectively with one another.

Lawyer assisted family law mediation is also well placed to provide a timely response when parties reach an impasse. An impasse can occur when one or both parties are motivated by a hidden agenda or when one or either of the parties has an unrealistic expectation of the other. The presence or absence of third parties including from in-laws or new partners can add to this complex and challenging dynamic. These challenges can be explored with relative ease in lawyer assisted mediation through the use of private caucus or by adopting a shuttle mediation structure. Legal representatives play a critical role at these times to overcome an obstacle or impasse and ensure parties remain future focused and able to secure workable outcomes.

Lawyer Assisted Family Law Mediation – What can it do?

Lawyer Assisted Family Law Mediation can:-

  • Achieve outcomes that stand the test of time. This is really important when dealing with financial and parenting matters after separation.
  • Facilitate negotiations between the parties. It is voluntary and no decision will be imposed upon you.
  • Offer a positive approach to family conflict. Opportunities for criticism and blame are limited. This is attractive to many couples after separation when emotions are raw.
  • Enable you to set your own agenda and come up with solutions that are uniquely tailored to your particular circumstances.
  • Allow you to set your own pace and ‘reality check’ all feasible options.
  • Provide you with a solid foundation for future discussions. Learning new strategies to engage with your former partner can be invaluable. In cases involving children, it can assist parties redefine the relationship from one of spouses to that of parents jointly responsible for their children.
  • Provide a cost-effective solution to what can otherwise be an adversarial, stressful and expensive process.

The Role of the Family Law Mediator

The family law mediator is a mutual third person engaged to facilitate discussions between parties in conflict. They set rules for the process that is to take place and effectively chair the discussion addressing power imbalances and other issues that may arise. Mediators do not act as the advocate of one or other of the parties nor do they provide legal advice or counselling services. Each family Law mediator has their own unique and individual style. Broadly speaking the role of the family law mediator is:

  1. To remain neutral and impartial.
  1. To allow both parties as much time as they need to discuss their own agenda.
  1. To help parties find ways to best resolve their disputes. In the case of securing successful parenting solutions this can include supporting parents in deciding how to explain the decisions to their children.
  1. To encourage parties to ‘reality’ test the practicalities of how any actual separation and subsequent agreement may work.
  1. To provide sufficient flexibility so that any potential difficulties or problems can receive sufficient attention and the solutions can be subsequently reviewed, if necessary.

The Role of the Family Lawyer

 Your legal representative can:

  1. Identify the merits of proposals and advise on the appropriateness of any offers of settlement.
  1. Help formulate alternative proposals.
  1. Table tailored solutions that might work for your family.
  1. Create future focused arrangements that you may not have thought of or that would not be achieved in the court but that could suit your situation.
  1. Ensure any agreement is “watertight” and will stand the test of time.

An experienced family lawyer brings years of specialist knowledge and “know how” to the table. They can guide and support you through the process and ensure you know where you stand throughout the process.

Your family lawyer will also help give you confidence. A party who is not financially literate or has difficulty articulating particular viewpoints can be at a big disadvantage without a lawyer “on hand”.

Is Your Matter Suitable for Lawyer Assisted Family Law Mediation?

There is some debate about the appropriateness of family law mediation in certain family law matters. The presence of a power imbalance and/or family violence is regarded by some as sufficient to disqualify that matter from being suitable for family dispute resolution. An alternative view is strongly held by others who believe that mediation can better serve separating families experiencing these issues. Lawyer assisted mediation is a very good solution for many families.

As time has passed the process of lawyer assisted mediation has continued to evolve and develop into a sophisticated set of mechanisms that can be applied to resolve a broad range of family conflicts. In the 21st century lawyer assisted family law mediation can nearly always provide a suitable process for a separating couple to try to make decisions about property which are just and equitable and about the children which are in their best interests.

Lawyer assisted family law mediation provides a process that facilitates optimum family law solutions in most cases.

Doolan Wagner Family Lawyers offer specialist family law advice in St Leonards on Sydney’s North Shore.  If you have recently separated or have a family law enquiry, please contact us on (02) 9437 0010 or enquiries@familylawyersdw.com.au to discuss your matter in complete confidence.  We have a team of experienced and caring professional family lawyers available to help you in this difficult time.

These posts are only intended as an overview or comment on current issues that may interest you and are not legal advice. If there are any matters that you would like us to advise you on, then please contact us.

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