Reaching an agreement with your spouse once separated can often be difficult and challenging to say the least. With emotions running high, things can get very tense and you may feel that reaching an agreement is almost impossible. Having a lawyer intervene to send off letters to your spouse at this stage is not the answer. It may lead to the other party becoming more antagonistic and the matter may end up in court. This will cause both parties endless stress and will be time consuming and expensive.
In circumstances such as this, an option that you and your partner may explore is Mediation, which may help open the lines of communication again. This is the process where a couple sits with a neutral third party, in an attempt to reach an agreement regarding parenting and property issues. Most often mediation is resorted to prior to commencing court proceedings.
What is Mediation?
Mediation is a facilitative process. But in order for this process to be successful the parties must prepare well. Usually issues relating to parenting and property are discussed at the mediation. In preparation for the mediation, you and your spouse must gather all relevant information and share it where necessary. If you feel that you may forget something, you should write things down. The information that must be gathered are generally bank statements tax returns, details of assets and liabilities, valuations of business and property and information regarding the children.
The initial meeting
Prior to the mediation commencing, the Mediator will have an intake session in private with each party in order to ascertain his/her story. This can be done in person or online. The Mediator will meet with each of the parties on their own and have a conversation with them, to ascertain their story. This meeting is confidential so the parties can discuss anything they wish to with the Mediator. At the end of this meeting, usually the parties feel more confortable as they have been able to have a discussion privately with the Mediator and they may feel more at ease going into the mediation.
The Mediation Process
When the mediation commences, the Mediator will brief the parties regarding the ground rules and ask each party to tell their story. Then an Agenda is set, in consultation with the parties. Once the Agenda has been set, the parties are invited to discuss each item on the Agenda, with a view to reaching an agreement.
If the parents feel that a child is struggling to cope with the separation, they can be referred to a child counselor who may see the child and make observations and discuss these matters with the parents. This information may assist the parents when trying to resolve their issues.
It is really important that the parties keep an open mind and listen carefully to what the other party is saying, otherwise conflict can escalate. Parents have to eventually compromise, so it’s beneficial to them to be a little flexible when discussing options. In family law, no one party is a winner. It is important that the parents focus on the “best interests of the children” when discussing their options. Parties should not get positional but think outside the box as tit–for-tat in family law matters does not work.
It is a good idea for each party to consider their goals, values, needs , their plan for the future of the family as well as the needs and wants of the other party in the course of the discussion. Mediation is a confidential process so what transpires in the course of the mediation cannot be used in court. Mediation is an alternative to the court process and is highly beneficial. You as the parents make the decisions, and not a judge who does not know anything about your family. If you can live with the arrangement you have reached, you have an agreement.