THE FAMILY MEDIATION PROCESS
Family Mediation is an alternate dispute resolution process aimed at assisting families in resolving their legal disputes.
A Family Mediation process is a confidential and without prejudice dispute resolution process which is aimed at assisting people who are in a relationship with resolving their dispute. A Family Mediation process is conducted by a neutral third party known as a Mediator. Parties are encouraged during the Mediation process to talk openly with one another and to seek joint resolution of the issues in dispute. The process is 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 mediation 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. For Family Mediation matters, all resolution must be centered on meeting the best interests of the child. Family Mediators must accordingly have a sufficient understanding of the family-systems model and understand the critical role that the various role-players assume in the life of the child.
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 also throughout the mediation 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.
DURATION – FAMILY MEDIATION PROCESS
The number of sessions required for a family 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 to try to resolve their dispute As a general guideline, parties can expect the mediation process to take between three to six sessions to point of finalization. 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 resolved in the first session.
Mediation is a viable alternate dispute resolution process. As compared to litigation, mediation offers faster resolution of the area(s) in dispute. Mediation is also a less expensive process 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. 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.