How Do I get the most out of my Family Law Mediation? Part 1, Caroline Counsel: Melbourne Family Lawyer

Humans and the human condition are at the centre of any family law dispute. Humans are complex animals. We are subject to many influences and prone to subtle thinking. Sometimes, we are unaware of how stimuli are working on us. We react but we cannot necessarily understand or analyse why.

At Caroline Counsel Family Lawyers, we understand how much is riding on this single event and we recognise that there is likely to be a lot more going on for your family than the facts of your case suggest. After all, this is your life and your future we are talking about and we know you are anxious to get the right result for you and your family.

It is hard for some lawyers to explain the steps in trying to resolve a Family Law matter so that you understand what they are saying. At Caroline Counsel Family Lawyers, we make every attempt to ensure that you have had the opportunity to understand what is happening in your case and why we propose certain steps be taken to promote the best possible outcome.

Some Family law lawyers use terms that are familiar to the lawyers but are like a foreign language to you – the clients. “If we don’t settle, we will issue proceedings”. You may not have any idea what issuing proceedings means. Even if the lawyer says “we will start a case in court” this is no clearer. Based on our experience, clients do not necessarily want to admit to their lawyer they do not understand something. That’s only human but the lawyer should avoid legal speak and jargon wherever possible. Whilst the term “mediation” has been around for a lengthy period, there is mediation and then there is mediation.

Part of properly preparing a client for mediation is setting out, in the layperson’s terms the following: what mediation is, what is involved in preparing for mediation, what role the lawyers play prior to the event, what role the clients play and what role the mediator plays at the mediation. Timeframes should be made clear to you. When a lawyer announces – “we are going to mediate”, that lawyer should also remember you are not likely to understand what this means in terms of the preparation or the time it takes to prepare for mediation. A thoroughly prepared mediation conducted by a mediator in demand might take 2 – 3 months to prepare. In complex matters where specialist valuations or advice is required, it may take longer. Clients sometimes think that mediation can happen the week after they meet their lawyer.

A good lawyer will work with their clients to find out from them matters to them most and what success looks like to them. Simply put, your lawyer should be asking you what they hope to achieve by mediating. If your lawyer is not on the same page as you, it is going to be incredibly hard for you to work with them to ensure your concerns and fears about the future have been identified and will feature in the lawyer’s thinking and preparatory work on your behalf.

You can ask your Family law lawyer to share their experiences of what success has looked like for other clients. You can ask what happens if the mediation does not resolve your matter. At Caroline Counsel Family Lawyers we know that even if the mediation does not resolve your case, much of the dispute can be resolved using mediation to inform and assess what the other side is thinking. Areas of dispute can be, in a word, narrowed.

We can also reflect on the elements needed to make a successful mediation and whether those are present a given client’s case.

In an ideal world, a client is one who has been able to identify what it is that they are hoping to achieve in mediation or negotiation and one who is better able to absorb information and take on your advice than a client who simply has no idea why they are there or what they are hoping to achieve. The latter client is simply not ready to mediate.

In the next blog I will discuss how to assist you get ready to negotiate.

Caroline Counsel
Nationally Accredited Mediator
Collaborative Lawyer
A Melbourne Family Lawyer

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