Mediator is a structured process and will commence with the Mediator explaining the process in detail to the parties, prior to commencing the session. After this is done, each party will have an opportunity to talk about the items they wish to discuss during the Mediation. When both parties have finished this process, the Mediator will assist the parties to form an agreed Agenda of items for discussion. This is an important part of the process, as it guides the parties discussion during the Mediation.
After the Agenda is set, the parties will commence discussing the agreed issues and exploring ideas around possible solutions. Even though these discussions are likely to be difficult and can lead to tension and high emotions, it is important to try to listen to the other party and not interrupt them when they are speaking. You will each get an opportunity to talk about what is important to you during the session.
During these discussions, the parties may come up with some proposed solutions for resolving their disagreement. Therefore, the next step is for the parties to fine-tune the details of these agreements. During this part, the Mediator may draft the main points of the parties agreement, to make sure that all parties understand exactly what has been agreed upon. During this stage, it is also important for you to "reality-test" what has been agreed. There is no point walking out of Mediation with an agreement, only to find that you won't be able to follow through what you agreed to do.
After the Mediation session, if the parties agree, the Mediator can draft up what has been agreed as an Agreement or Parenting Plan.
Some parties are unable to reach agreement during Mediation. Nonetheless, you may still have found the Mediation session useful in being able to have had a discussion about the issues at hand and listen to the other parties' perspective. Often people do not reach agreement at the first Mediation session, but are able to reach agreement during a subsequent Mediation session.
We usually schedule our Mediation sessions for two hours. There may be times where a longer session is required and this can be arranged. However, we find that it is often more effective to schedule a further Mediation session, to give you time and space to process what has been discussed, rather than feeling pressured, by having one long Mediation session that goes on for hours.
Prior to having your Mediation session, you will also have an individual pre-Mediation session. During this private session, the Mediator will collect some background information from you to enable them to properly prepare for your case and assess the suitability of your matter for Mediation. This pre-Mediation session will usually take about one and a half hours.
Mediation is a voluntary process. This means that if at any stage you feel you need a break, or that you do not wish to continue, you should let the Mediator know.
The very nature of Mediation means that the parties are in conflict. Therefore we can expect that the discussions are likely to trigger strong emotions. Research shows that when we are feeling angry or emotional, it is difficult for our brain to experience rational discussion and decision-making.
Therefore, if you are feeling like this, you should let your Mediator know that you would like a break. It is amazing what a 10-minute break and cup of coffee can do to clarify your thinking and help you re-enter the process.
Sometimes the Mediator may decide to call a break or even terminate the session if they feel that Mediation is no longer appropriate. Or they may convene a private meeting with each of you, during which time you can have a confidential discussion with the Mediator and discuss how you are feeling about the Mediation.
A Mediator cannot give legal advice. They may sometimes give the parties publicly available general information, but they cannot provide you with any legal advice regarding your specific situation.
We recommend that you see a lawyer prior to attending your first Mediation session. This can help give you an idea of what a possible court outcome might be and the likely cost of going to court. Having this information can make it easier for you to manage your expectations and to help you make or accept realistic settlement proposals during Mediation.