FAMILY MEDIATION SOUTH AFRICA
Family Mediation is an alternate dispute resolution process aimed at assisting families in resolving their legal disputes.
Family Mediation is a confidential and without prejudice dispute resolution process which is aimed at assisting people who are in relationship with one another in resolving their dispute. The process is conducted by a neutral third party known as a Mediator. Parties are encouraged during the Mediation to talk openly with one another and to seek joint resolution of the issues in dispute. The process is a completely voluntary and at no stage is any party to a mediation required to agree to any settlement proposal that the other party may offer them.
The role of the Mediator is primarily to assist parties in their endeavours to resolve their dispute. The Mediator will during the process help the parties to identify the issues in dispute. He or she will facilitate discussions concerning those areas in dispute and will encourage the parties to think of ways that their dispute can possibly be resolved. A Mediator may not be involved in a matter where he has an interest in the outcome of the matter given that the Mediator is at all times required to assume a neutral and unbiased position in the matter. A Mediator may not take sides with any of the parties involved in the Mediation, nor may the Mediator assume the role of judge and impose any decision on the parties. A Mediator who is also an attorney may not act as the parties’ legal representative nor may the Mediator who is a psychologist or social worker, offer counselling services to the parties. A Mediator will throughout the process encourage the parties to seek independent legal advice on any question which they may have of a legal nature, and in particular before finalizing any agreement reached by them.
THE DURATION OF THE MEDIATION PROCESS
The number of sessions required for a mediation is dependent upon the extent and complexity of the issues in dispute. The number of sessions required is also dependent upon the willingness and joint co-operation of the parties in trying to resolve their dispute As a general guideline, parties can expect the mediation process to take between three to six sessions to be finalized. Sessions are scheduled for between one and a half to two hours each. Given the general process followed for a mediation, it is rare for a mediation to be finalized in the first session.
As compared to litigation, mediation offers faster resolution of the area(s) in dispute. Mediation is also a far less expensive process. Additionally, mediation is an effective means for maintaining on-going working relationships between the parties – this being an especially important consideration where children are involved. In light of mediation having the potential to assist with the development of new channels of communication, there is also an increased prospect of quick and successful resolution of future issues of dispute.
Apart from cases of severe domestic violence, most areas of dispute within the family context are capable of resolution by mediation. These include issues pertaining to Parental Responsibilities and Rights over a child; the development of Parenting Plans, Proprietary disputes; Monetary disputes including maintenance for a partner and/or child; and Hague Convention matters on international child abduction.