Article written by Nardine Collier
Family Lawyer Cairns & Alice Springs

Your relationship ends. You want to sort out arrangements for your children and your property. You have tried talking to you ex, but it just ends up in shouting and tears. You just can’t seem to make them understand why you feel the way you do; why you can’t agree to what they want. Maybe you don’t even know what that is! What can you do?
You should get some legal advice, but you should also look at mediation as soon as possible. In past articles I have talked about mediation and why it is so worthwhile. This article explains more about the process and what to expect.
For family law mediations, the most common ways of arranging a mediation is through Relationships Australia, the Queensland Legal Aid Commission, the Dispute Resolution Centre or through a private mediator.
There might be slight variations in the process amongst organisations but basically, this is what I do. I meet each Party separately, prior to the mediation, to have a private chat to you about your hopes for the mediation, the issues you would like to discuss, and your proposals to settle the dispute. If parties are comfortable to do so we will then meet together (called a joint session). Parties can bring their lawyers if they wish to do so. If it is not a good idea to all be in the same room, a mediation can also be conducted as a “Shuttle” mediation which means you are in separate rooms at all times and I go back and forth between you.
We start by working out what each party would like to achieve, and we put together a list of issues to discuss and tackle them one by one. We might do this in a joint session, or we might have a private session, which is where I meet with you (and your lawyer) alone.

If it is about property, we start by looking at what property there is, and whether parties agree on values. Before a mediation, each party will be required to provide the other with financial information such as bank statements, superannuation statements, etc; and houses and the like will need to be valued.

Mediation is a great process which has a very high success rate. It allows you to ‘talk’ to each other in a safe environment, in a controlled and respectful way. One of the rules of mediation will be that you talk respectfully to the other person, there is no shouting or put downs, and no interruptions when the other is talking. I see it all the time – people have not been able to resolve a dispute because they just haven’t been able to talk about it. Sometimes that is all it takes, the ability to talk, be heard, and have the other person try and understand where you are coming from.

Any agreement you reach yourselves will be fair better than an order imposed on you by the court. It is very rare for someone to come out a court proceeding with everything they wanted, and the costs are high, financially and emotionally. The best thing you can do for yourself, your family, your children – is to try and resolve this dispute, reach an agreement about family law matters, and move on with life.

It is my opinion that just about any dispute is capable of resolution and you have nothing to lose by attempting mediation. Even if you don’t manage to settle entirely, there is always something positive that is achieved.

Nardine Collier is a Nationally Accredited mediator and has been mediating family law disputes for 20 years. She is a Family Dispute Resolution Practitioner, a Family Law Arbitrator, a panel mediator for various Australia wide organisations and for courts and tribunals, and regularly mediates at legal aid conferences in family law, in Cairns and the Northern Territory. She is also the Cairns representative of the Queensland Chapter of the Resolution Institute of Australia.