Compulsory mediation, or Family Dispute Resolution (FDR), is a useful method when married or de facto couples are filing for divorce. Mediation involves an independent person assisting to help two opposing parties come to an agreement and negotiate the property settlement and parenting arrangements. In some cases, couples can themselves come to agreements on financial arrangements and arrangements regarding children without any other intervention. In other cases, a resolution is hard to find and couple may decide for the court to come to a mutual agreement. However, there are steps to take before the courts become involved.

When is compulsory mediation ‘compulsory’?

Compulsory mediation is relevant under the Family Law Act 1975 when a couple is wanting to apply to a family law court because they need to obtain consent orders. However, this can only happen if the couple has received a certificate from a FDR practitioner. These certificates are only given if the divorcing couple has actually made an effort in the compulsory mediation sessions. Compulsory mediation is relevant to new applicants and old applicants who are wishing to change their parenting order.

However, mediation is also beneficial for couples who don’t necessarily need the courts to interfere, but would like to come to an arrangement that is objective and fair for all parties. Mediation is a less expensive and less combative atmosphere for divorcing couples to come to mutual agreements with the help of an uninvolved third party. FDR helps to remove the stress of the divorcing couple’s opinions and focuses on what is immediately important; financial situations and arrangements for children.

If you are experiencing domestic violence, compulsory mediation is not required. If you or your children are in an unsafe environment, it’s important to seek legal advice as soon as you can. A family lawyer will help you to apply for a protection order and begin the separation process so that you can focus on making sure you and your children are safe.

compulsory mediation, mediation, divorce, parenting arrangements, property settlementWho provides compulsory mediation?
Compulsory mediation can be provided by many; including individuals, organisations, lawyers and legal aid commissions. However, only accredited FDR practitioners can supply the needed certificate for the parenting order.

Is compulsory mediation confidential?
Whatever agreement or conversation occurs during compulsory mediation is confidential and cannot be used as evidence in court unless the activities relate back to a crime (i.e. accusations of child abuse or threatening behaviour).

FDR practitioners are not employed to be biased, instead they work together with both parties to come to a mutual agreement. Due to confidentiality, FDR encourages you to work together with your partner and family for positive outcomes.

Preparing for mediation
In preparing for mediation, make sure you understand the issues of the dispute and what elements of the dispute are important to you. Ensure you take the right steps in communicating your wishes, even if that means taking notes and preparing what you wish to mention before you attend the mediation appointment. However, remember to remain flexible; the other party may have other ideas and other means of resolution.

What if an agreement is made?
Agreements made in compulsory mediation are beneficial to the divorce settlement. If you make financial or parenting agreements during mediation, they must be recorded in writing and signed by both parties. Your FDR practitioner will ensure the right steps are made to ensure all the correct legal steps are followed.

compulsory mediation, mediation, divorce, parenting arrangements, property settlementWhat are the benefits of compulsory mediation?
There are many benefits, the first including time. By using mediation, a dispute can be resolved faster than it would if you were waiting to attend court. Unfortunately, court dates can be postponed due to a backlog of cases. However, with mediation, a date is set that is suitable for both parties and will not be changed unless difficulties arrive. Therefore, there is more room for flexibility.

Secondly, mediation is not as expensive as a court process. Litigation is expensive, and in some cases, the losing party may even have to pay the legal costs of the other party. This is not the case in mediation.

There is also flexibility involved in compulsory mediation and FDR. The two parties work together to receive an outcome that they are both happy with. The mediator works to make it a flexible and relaxed environment and there is no need for formalities. Therefore, it is also less stressful than appearing in court.

As mentioned before, confidentially is assured and the mediator is not biased when helping assist the parties come to a conclusion. Due to this, the parties are more likely to be satisfied with the end result as they have both worked on the agreements.

It is important to understand exactly what mediation is as it is beneficial to both parties and their children. It contributes to an understanding of the feelings of both parties involved and in ensuring the best decisions are made. Divorcing is not easy and can cause a lot of stress and upheaval within the family unit. However, it is the intention of mediation to make the separation as simple and easy as possible. Separating your property and making decisions regarding your children is difficult during divorce, yet mediation aims to provide an opportunity for both parties to come to a mutual agreement.

If you need help with any aspect of separation, divorce or mediation, please contact us today. We offer a FREE, 10-minute phone consultation with our expert, friendly family lawyers.