What is Mediation?
Mediation, also known as Family Dispute Resolution (FDR), is a way for parties to resolve disagreements and come to a resolution without going through court. Mediation can occur at any point in family law proceedings and can be used to resolve disputes in their entirety or to narrow the issues in dispute. Narrowing the issues in dispute can help streamline the process, resulting in faster and more cost-efficient outcomes.
Family Dispute Resolution is now compulsory prior to the commencement of parenting proceedings. Under The Federal Circuit and Family Court of Australia (Family Law) Rules 2021 (Family law Rules) there are a number of pre-action procedures required before commencing parenting proceedings. When filing an initiating Application in parenting proceedings you must submit a Genuine Steps Certificate which sets out the steps you have taken to resolve the issues in dispute prior to filing in court. One of these steps is inviting the other party to participate in Family Dispute Resolution.
Accredited Family Mediators or Family Dispute Resolution Practitioners are specialised mediators who assist the parties with defining the issues in dispute and facilitating discussions regarding the practical and legal solutions to these issues. Mediations can occur with or without lawyers being present. The benefit with lawyers being present is that if an agreement is reached, they can assist the parties with putting this agreement in writing, either as Consent Orders or as a Parenting Plan.
If you do not reach an agreement with the other parent or party, the Accredited Family Mediator is authorised to issue the parties a s60I certificate. A s60I certificate is required to be filed before initiating parenting proceedings. The certificate will state whether the parties did or did not attend mediation and whether the parties made a genuine effort to resolve the dispute. Sometimes, if necessary, the mediator can also make the decision that your case is not appropriate for Family Dispute Resolution, this decision can be made prior to the mediation or part way through. There are exceptions to the requirement for a s60I certificate, if you want more information regarding these exceptions, please contact the office to make an appointment with one of our team.
More mediations are now happening over video conferencing software such as Microsoft Teams. Having video conferencing available means Mediations can be scheduled quicker and with lower costs. However, it is important that if your mediation is scheduled electronically that you have a private room to appear from and that you do not record the mediation.