You have jointly made the decision to divorce and have agreed to make this process as painless as possible by doing it through mediation. This, alone, is a major step to take but you may be a little apprehensive of the process you are about to go through. You might be wondering what are the stages of divorce mediation so, in this blog, our Perth divorce mediator Ian Shann shares the 5 key stages of divorce mediation with you.
Methods adopted by professional mediators may vary but, commonly, there are five basic stages of divorce mediation. Some may take longer than others, depending on the complexity of the issues and the levels of conflict but, if both spouses are genuinely keen to resolve their differences in a fair manner, mediation is almost certain to be significantly less stressful and much cheaper than full-on litigation.
Stage 1 Of Divorce Mediation – Introduction & Intakes
This is the fact finding session. The mediator will lay the foundation for the mediation by explaining the process to all parties separately and confidentially. You will be expected to lay your cards on the table and spell out exactly what you are looking to achieve. All parties are encouraged to be totally honest for this process to succeed.
You may have already have agreement on significant points and this is always a good place to start, before addressing the unresolved issues.
Some divorce mediators conduct a joint session, while others may prefer to speak with each party separately prior to mediation. Ian Shann prefers the individual and confidential initial meetings so that parties are not constrained about revealing the real issues and their innermost concerns. The other spouse will not be told the content of these discussions unless the mediator is specifically authorised to release it to them.
Intake sessions may be held by video or telephone conferencing where this is more convenient.
Parties participating in mediation have the opportunity to provide sensitive information and raise emotional issues or concerns, such as concerns for their safety.
Stage 2 Of Divorce Mediation – Gathering information
Following (or even before) the intake sessions each party will be requested to provide relevant information and financial documents to enable the mediator to accurately assess the situation and get insights into how a settlement might be negotiated.
Financial documents are likely to include pay-slips, bank statements, investments, loans, personal debts, etc. [For a guide as to what is required at this stage see the Family Court of Western Australia’s brochure “Financial Disclosure”].
If, at any stage, you feel your partner is not being honest or may not be disclosing relevant financial information or you become fearful or anxious, you need to inform the mediator who will deal with these issues before the formal mediation is held.
Stage 3 Of Divorce Mediation – Framing
At the formal mediation meeting with all parties present all of the relevant information, the goals and possible conclusions will be discussed and put on the table for consideration. This would include all unresolved matters, such as transfer of properties, the financial position and matters relating to children – whatever you want to resolve as part of your mediation.
Stage 4 Of Divorce Mediation – Negotiating
You have now reached the whole purpose of the mediation. Both parties now consider the position and possible solutions that may be proposed. All unresolved issues are discussed and negotiated, usually one at a time, until all issues have been agreed.
This is usually the most emotional and stressful stage of the entire process and it is absolutely vital for both spouses to remain focused on each issue and consider what might be acceptable compromises. It is normal for you to feel anxious during this process, so take your time to think each point through.
You should not agree any term with which you are not comfortable, simply to finalise matters. Some compromises may be acceptable (even if they are not your optimal position); some are not. There is no pressure to sign any agreement there and then. You still have the option of taking more time to think it over, or obtain further legal advice on the terms of any proposed settlement. If full agreement is not reached at mediation, it is likely that your only option to finally resolve matters then may be through action in the Family Court. The prospect of costly legal action may be sufficient motivation for both parties to search for acceptable compromises.
Stage 5 Of Divorce Mediation – Conclusion
When all the disputed issues are agreed you can both breathe a huge sigh of relief. The worst is over. It is now time for the mediator to draft the agreement reached at mediation, which each spouse is free to take to their own lawyers for a final check before signing.
Once both parties have confirmed the agreement (and any attachments like asset & liability schedules), it can be attached to an Application for Consent Orders to be submitted to the Family Court for formal approval. Parties can undertake this step themselves (Move On Mediation will provide a detailed guide to this process – but, as mediators, are unable to act for one or both parties in this final step). Once the Orders are “pronounced” by the Court they become legally binding and enforceable.
As hard as it may be, all that is required is a genuine will by both spouses to end the marriage as amicably as possible for the entire family. Your divorce mediator will do the rest.
Speak to divorce mediation specialist Ian Shann about booking a mediation session in Perth (or online by video conference) today.