Prior to engaging in the actual mediation it will be neccesary for both parties to attend separate "Intake Sessions".
These intake sessions are to ensure an understanding by the mediator as to the history of your relationship with your ex-partner, an understanding of what is currently in place for your children, your current financial situation & an understanding of your concerns & issues that need to be resolved in mediation.
On the day of your intake session the mediator will discuss with you the process of mediation & answer any questions that you may have in regards to the mediation process. You will be given a folder with relevant information and preparation documentation to assist you at the mediation.
It is a good idea to try & obtain legal advice prior to the intake session regarding children's matters & /or property & financial arrangements as per the Family Law Act.
All intake session are private & confidential & no information discussed during the intake
session will be disclosed to the other party.
Once you & your ex-partner have attended the intake session the FDPR / Mediator will do a suitability review to assess whether the mediation should proceed & inform you of that decision. Family violence, disability, safety issues, literacy or cultural differences can mean that mediation may be unsuitable or may need more structured preparation.
If your matter is suitable for mediation you will be contacted regarding a suitable date/time for your mediation.
Prior to CMS Family Dispute Resolution / Mediation Commencing:
When one party contacts CMS to commence FDR/mediation, we will do an initial phone session to gain the basic contact information for yourself, plus details required to be able to contact the other party with your permission to invite them to participate in the FDR/mediation process.
In accordance with the Family Law Regulations, we will make 2 attempts to invite the other party with at least one of these being in writing.
Once both parties have confirmed they wish to proceed with CMS conducting FDR/mediation, we will organise separate Intake Sessions for each of you.
After the intake session but prior to the mediation it is important for you to prepare for your FDR / mediation session:
Identify your most important issues & concerns that need resolving. What are your goals that you would like to acheive in the mediation?
Identify what your 'ideal' agreement would be, where you can compromise and what options you can live with. Remember that mediation is facilitated negotiation .... no one gets 100% of what is their 'ideal'. You need to come prepared to discuss and mutually decide agreements. Both parties' interests and concerns need to be met.
Think about what your ex-partner may be concerned about and may be wanting. How will you respond to these concerns and requests?
In the mediation, each person is given time to make an opening statement. This is an opportunity for you to identify some key issues & concerns from your point of view & state what might work for you in the agreement you are trying to reach. Come prepared to do this .... brief written notes often help.
You also need to think about what your alternatives are if you are not able to settle matters at the mediation. (eg. Court?) What are the pros and cons of your alternatives?
The more you are prepared for the mediation, the more likely that you will reach an appropriate mutually agreed outcome.
Separate Intake Sessions with each party
FDR / Mediation Joint Session
The Mediator will start the mediation by making an opening statement that will explain what is to happen during the course of the mediation, their role and what is expected of both parties. Each party will be asked to sign a Joint Agreement to Mediate document prior to proceeding to Step 4.
Parties' opening statements
You & and your ex- partner will be asked to make an opening statement. This is in your own words, it should identify what are your issues & concerns that you would like to be addressed in the mediation. Try to keep your statement short & to the point; focus on acheiving a good outcome rather than critising your ex-partner. Once you & your ex-partner have spoken the mediator will usually summarise & clarify your main points. It is this summary that is used in the next step of the mediation process to set the agenda for the mediation.
Identifying issues & setting an agenda
During this stage the mediator will use the information obtained from your opening statements to form an agenda. This is a list of issues that you & your ex-partner are in dispute about, or you wish to address and resolve. The mediator will then help you & your ex-partner prioritise the issues on the agenda. This is important because all issues may not be able to be resolved in the first session.
Discussing issues - exploration
This is where both parties will be asked to discuss the issues listed on the agenda so you can explain these from your own perspective and what your interests and concerns are regarding these. It is also an opportunity to hear your ex-partner's views and his / her needs and concerns. Remember that it is these differences in understanding that have brought you to mediation. Once you have both been able to gain some mutual understanding regarding the issues needing resolving, the mediator will enable both parties the opportunity to put forward some options around the issues that are in dispute. The mediator will assist you in reaching a workable arrangement. It is rare that both parties will get 100% of what they want so it is important to understand that reaching a workable agreement is about compromise; what can you live with. And in relation to your children, will it be in the best interest of your children.
In most mediations, the mediator may speak with each party in one or more separate meetings. Everything in a separate meeting is totally private & confidential & will not be brought back into the open mediation unless a party wishes to do so. You should tell the mediator in the private meeting about any concerns that you have in regards to how the mediation is going, or if there is other information you may wish to speak with the mediator about in confidence. The mediator will use these sessions to assist you with your negotiations to progress the issues towards agreement. It is your mediation so you may also ask for a separate meeting at 'any time' during the mediation.
Assisting in finalising discussions
During the mediation, the mediator will encourage you & your ex-partner to put forward a range of options in regards to trying to reach a workable agreement between the both of you. Be understanding of what options would work for you (and your children, if applicable) and most importantly know what your alternatives are if you don't reach an agreement in mediation. Understand what going to court would look like, how much time, emotional energy and what the dollar cost of that would mean to you and your new family structure. There will come a time towards the end of the mediation when you will both need to consider the proposals put forward and weigh these against your alternatives if these options are not acceptable.
Reaching an agreement
If an agreement is reached between the parties, the mediator will usually write up the agreement around what decisions were agreed to, during the mediation. Make sure you understand the legal implications of signing an agreement reached in mediation. Prior legal advice before mediation is recommended. If your lawyers are present during the mediation, they can assist with advice and drafting of your settlement. Your Parenting Plan and / or Property Settlement can be formalised legally as Consent Orders with the Family Court after mediation, if you wish to do so.
Remember you are free to get legal advice before you sign any agreement that has been reached.