Here’s a list of essential questions to ask yourself when preparing for family mediation.

What are the main issues I want to resolve?

In almost all separations there are three main issues that need to be resolved:

  1. how will the pool of assets be divided (and should there be any ongoing financial support)
  2. what arrangements should be put in place for the ongoing welfare of the children
  3. what should be the ongoing financial arrangements for child support

What do I want to achieve?

List your objectives and things to discuss in your family mediation session. Be mindful of what the other party may want to achieve. Make a list of what you think may be on your ex-partner’s wish list. It’s advisable to strive to achieve a settlement that you can both live with and one that is fair and equitable, as required under the Australian family law.

What are some realistic outcomes for our mediation?

One realistic outcome is that you cannot expect to have it all your way and there will have to be some give and take from both parties. Sensible compromise and a fair outcome are what it’s all about.  By having your list of objectives in front of you, it may enable you to trade one objective for another in the negotiation for an amicable settlement. 

What issues am I prepared to be flexible on?

From your list of objectives, highlight the points you are prepared to compromise and ask yourself how or if they would help your ex to achieve their objectives. In other words, would your ex be prepared to accept the bits you are offering? Think carefully on these issues as they could help you to achieve your primary objectives.

How will I react if the other person says something that upsets me?

Keeping emotions to a minimum during the mediation is vital to finding a fair outcome. Mediators are trained to control unreasonable behaviour and will offer protection, where that is necessary. If you’ve been through an abusive relationship and feel intimidated, ask the mediator to conduct the sessions in separate rooms or by video conference.

How can I ensure I remain calm during the mediation session?

Remain focused on the end game – to achieve a favourable outcome for you and your children. You may ask for a friend or family member to attend the sessions for emotional support provided all parties agree.

On the other hand, try not to press your ex’s buttons which might trigger a hostile response.

Are we focused on the needs of our children?

The needs, interests and welfare of your children have to be the focal point.

What is the best possible outcome?

The best possible outcome is for you to reach a settlement that is acceptable and practical to both parties, leading to a conflict-free, post-separation relationship with your ex. Do the terms you are seeking lead to such an outcome?

What is the worst possible outcome?

The worst possible outcome is for the mediation to fail, sending you both on what could become a lengthy, costly and stressful court process.

What outcome would our children want?

By remaining focused on the best interests of your children throughout the mediation, you’ll be striving to achieve an outcome your children would want: a conflict-free relationship between their parents.

How will potential outcomes affect the other person/children?

All divorce settlements have an impact on both parties and the children. Achieving an amicable settlement is your best opportunity for an ongoing conflict-free relationship with your ex, making life easier for you and your children. Continued conflict will almost certainly have a negative effect on children and, eventually, just wears everyone down.

What will happen if we can’t agree?

If you cannot agree on all the issues there are still several options open to you. Firstly, try to analyse why you could not reach agreement and try again, perhaps using a different mediator. The other options are for you to appoint separate lawyers to negotiate on your behalf and, if that fails, you’ll have to settle your disputes through legal action in the Family Court.

If we can’t agree, how much is going to Court going to cost?

That will depend on the number and complexities of the unresolved issues. When one considers the average cost of a litigated matter (financial and/or parenting issues) in Australia is well over $50,000 per party, it seems logical to try to avoid that as far as possible and to try hard to reach an amicable settlement through mediation.

What will happen if we do agree?

Your family mediator will draw up the agreement reached at mediation, which you can take to your own lawyer for a second opinion, before preparing an Application for Consent Orders and submitting this to the Family Court for approval.

Preparation is key when it comes to getting the most value from your family mediation session, so don’t waste time by not knowing what you want to have achieved through the family mediation process.