The process of going through court is not only time-consuming, but it is also financially and emotionally draining. If your case is appropriate for mediation, and both parties are willing to participate, trying mediation before initiating a court application can be beneficial.
What is Mediation?
Mediation is a form of alternative dispute resolution and is commonly used in many areas of law to settle disputes. Family law uses mediation quite frequently as a tool to help separating couples work out their support or child payments, visitation arrangements and property division.
Mediation is an informal meeting of the two parties together with a neutral, third party mediator. A mediator is often a lawyer, psychologist, or a social worker, however when acting as a mediator, they cannot assist the parties with their other regular professional skills. During a mediation session, the mediator will help the parties work through their problems by being a neutral observer and offering unbiased opinions, steering the parties towards a solution. They are not there to judge who is right or who is wrong, and they are not permitted to offer legal advice in this capacity. Sometimes the presence of a mediator is all that is needed for both parties to get their positions, but also feelings out on the table, and to reach a resolution.
Seek Independent Legal Advice
It is advisable that participants in mediation obtain legal advice before attending a mediation session to ensure they are properly informed of their rights throughout the process. You may also wish to retain a lawyer to attend mediation with you.
If you are able to come to an agreement during your mediation session, the mediator may write out terms of agreement, or a mediation report summarizing what was discussed. However, before signing anything, it is important to review the terms with a lawyer. Once an agreement is fully executed by all parties it is binding and must be followed.
A Voluntary Dispute Resolution Process
Mediation is completely voluntary, meaning either party can leave at any point during a mediation session. It is also important to know that mediation is not right for every circumstance. If your situation involves violence, abuse, or intimidation then mediation may be inappropriate, as a fair agreement cannot be reached if one party feels threatened by the other. For many other cases however, mediation can be beneficial, saving parties both time and legal fees. Have a discussion with your lawyer if you think mediation is the best route for you to pursue.