02 June, 2020

Mediation can be a great way to help two or more people in conflict agree on a mutually acceptable solution.

It might be useful for neighbours disputing over a fence, an employer and employee resolving an issue in the workplace, or helping separated families divide property and/or agree on childcare arrangements.

But what exactly does a mediator do? And how does mediation help?

Family Dispute Resolution (FDR) Practitioner Tara Roberts and FDR Clinical Supervisor and Conflict Coach John Cleary shed some light on family mediation and dispute resolution here.


Who uses mediation?

As we touched on above, mediation can be used in a wide range of settings and situations. In this article, we’ll be focusing on family dispute resolution.

Family mediation or dispute resolution is available to anyone who is separating or has separated, including those in de facto or same-sex relationships, and those with or without children.

Mediation can help each party respectfully negotiate issues around parenting, property, finances and more to reach agreements that work for everyone.


How does mediation work?

The process is tailored to suit the needs of each party, but it generally starts with an individual intake session to determine whether mediation is a suitable solution.

“After a pretty thorough intake, clients can expect that a mediator will introduce them safely into a structured, problem-solving conversation,” John explains.

“That means that the clients will build an agenda together, artfully shaped by the mediator to maximise its potency. They’ll spend two or three hours per session working through that agenda, considering the problems that sit under each question, and developing ideas for managing the issues better. Then, they will hopefully arrive at some self-authored and mutually understood agreements.”

These sessions normally take two to three hours, and it’s not unusual to require more than one session. You also have the option to discuss with your mediator how the agreements reached can be made legally binding.


What does a mediator do?

A mediator acts as a neutral third party to help people in a dispute come to an agreement. Tara explains that the mediator facilitates a discussion that is future-focused and child-focused.

“We aren’t there to make decisions on behalf of the clients,” she says. “We are there to monitor and keep the conversation respectful and about the children. We attempt to move clients from their positions to their interest, from their past to their future, and to their shared goal – which would be their child/ren.”


How does mediation help?

This service has many benefits, including:

  • Private and confidential
  • Takes place in a safe and neutral environment
  • Supports positive decision-making
  • Solutions are negotiated and self-determined
  • Builds problem-solving and conflict management skills
  • Can encourage cooperation and improve communication between parties.

“Mediation can help in a number of ways,” Tara says.

“It’s a future-focused discussion which can be helpful when there is a lot of emotion around. It can also be a slow process with minimum of three steps – but that’s a good thing, because we want to prepare our clients and give them lots of resources and child development information.”

John adds that mediation can be extremely beneficial for children of separating parents.

“The benefits to the children of the relationship are probably immeasurable,” he says. “In so many studies, the common sentiment of children involved in separation is for parents to stop fighting and to leave them out of adult issues. Children know best in these matters but are our uncounted customers.”


You can learn more about our Family Dispute Resolution (FDR) program here, or call us on 1300 364 277 for help finding the right service for your circumstances.