When you attend family mediation, it’s up to you to decide what you want to resolve – financial settlement, parenting/children’s matters, or both.
So how do you know what issues are involved in parenting/children’s matters and what are dealt with in a financial settlement mediation? And how do you decide whether you need to address one or both of these issues?
I’ll explain the difference between financial settlement and parenting/children’s matters at family mediation to help you work out what you need to resolve.
What Matters Can Be Discussed at Family Mediation?
Any matter relevant to divorce or separation can be discussed at family mediation. This usually involves one or both of children’s issues and/or financial settlement.
It is mandatory under the family law for matters which involve children to be discussed through some form of alternative dispute resolution (which includes family mediation) before commencing proceedings in Court (there are some exceptions, such as where family violence is involved). However, it is not compulsory to attend alternative dispute resolution before going to Court to resolve financial settlement. However, both types of issues can be the subject of (and be resolved by) alternative dispute resolution where you and your ex-spouse come to an agreement after separation.
Financial Settlement Matters at Family Mediation
Financial settlement following separation is often the subject at family mediation. This would involve discussions and agreement about how assets are to be split and, in some cases, what levels of spousal maintenance might be appropriate. Family mediation is a voluntary process but, where you choose this route, parties must make a full and complete disclosure to each other of all assets and liabilities; it is also necessary to provide each party with updated details of income and financial resources.
Assets and liabilities – including real estate, mortgages, investments, businesses, bank accounts, loans, vehicles and superannuation – must be fully disclosed so there can be a fair and equitable split under the requirements of the family law.
This process can be complicated and require additional financial and/or legal assistance. This is ofteh the case where it comes to valuing businesses, assessing the value of superannuation and assessing non-financial contributions made by a party during the relationship. Mediators can recommend or arrange legal and financial assistance if required.
Australian Family Law requires that the asset split is just and equitable. That does not mean that everything will be split straight down the middle and every settlement will be done on a 50:50 basis. This is part of the value of using an experienced family mediator. Although they do not provide independent legal advice, they can offer general guidance to both parties to help them reach an amicable settlement that is appropriate for their family’s circumstances.
Spousal maintenance may also be an issue requiring some experience and assistance – by looking at the needs and capacities of the parties.
Both parties must be in agreement for a financial mediation to be successful. And the agreement must be reasonable and cover all items of property and be a final and complete settlement – otherwise it’s off to the Family Court for a decision by a judge.
Children’s & Parenting Matters at Family Mediation
Where children’s & parenting matters are involved in family mediation, an experienced mediator can offer guidance on issues of the time that children spend with each parent (and, possibly, others such as grandparents), handover arrangements, holidays and birthdays and special days and assist parties to prepare and obtain Parenting Orders by consent from the Family Court.
Family mediators are trained and experienced in dealing with the emotions that often arise when dealing with children’s matters after a separation.
Children’s matters are best resolved at family mediation. That’s why it is mandatory under Australian Family Law in any separation where there are children under 18 involved to attempt alternative dispute resolution before taking matters to the Family Court..
Do We Have To Address Both Kinds Of Matters at Family Mediation?
It is not a requirement of the family law in Australia that alternative dispute resolution be attempted before commencing proceedings in financial matters. But, with limited exceptions, it is compulsory in children’s/parenting matters .
Given the clear benefits of getting matters resolved as amicably, quickly and cost-effectively as possible, mediation makes more sense – in all family law matters.
Ready to discuss financial settlement and/or children’s and parenting matters at family mediation? Get in touch with me today to start the family mediation process.