Family Mediation is an alternate dispute resolution process aimed at assisting families in resolving their legal disputes.
Mediation is a confidential and without prejudice dispute resolution process which is aimed at assisting families and couples with resolving their dispute. A Family Mediation is conducted by a Mediator who remains neutral, and balanced in respect of the Parties and their dispute. Parties are encouraged during the Mediation process to talk openly with one another and to seek to jointly resolve their dispute. Mediation is a completely voluntary process. 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 to assist the Parties to resolve their dispute. The Mediator will during the mediation process help the parties to identify the issues in dispute. She will facilitate discussions concerning those areas in dispute. Additionally she will encourage the Parties to think of ways that their dispute can best be resolved. For Family Mediation matters, all resolution must be centered on meeting the best interests of the child. Family Mediators must have a good understanding of the dynamics governing families as well as understand the critical role that various role-players assume in the life of the child.
A Family Mediator may not be involved in a matter where she has an interest in the outcome. The reason for this is she is at all times required to be neutral and unbiased towards the Parties and their dispute. A Mediator may not take sides with the Parties, nor may the Mediator assume the role of Judge and impose her decision on the Parties. Where a Mediator is also an attorney, he or she 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 should ideally throughout the mediation process encourage the Parties to seek independent legal advice on any question which they may have regarding their matter, and in particular, before finalizing the agreement reached by them.
The number of sessions required for a Family Mediation is dependent upon the complexity of the issues in dispute. The number of sessions required is also dependent upon the willingness of the Parties to jointly resolve their dispute As a rule, Parties can expect the mediation process to take between three to six sessions. Sessions are scheduled for between one and a half to two hours each. Given the process followed for a Mediation, it is rare but not impossible for a Mediation to be resolved in the first session.
Mediation is an alternate dispute resolution process. Compared to litigation, mediation offers faster resolution of the area(s) in dispute. Mediation is also less expensive than litigation. 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. Mediation teaches Parties how to communicate effectively in the face of conflict. The impact of this is there is an increased probability of quick and successful resolution of future disputes.
Apart from cases of severe domestic violence, most areas of dispute within the family can be mediated. These areas of dispute include Parental Responsibilities and Rights; Parenting Plans; Proprietary disputes; Monetary disputes including maintenance for a partner and/or child; Elder Mediation; Pre-Marital Contracts and Hague Convention matters on international child abduction.