For some people mediation can provide a great opportunity to actively resolve disputes and reach workable solutions themselves, with the help of an independent mediator. Mediation is not to help people reconcile or get back together. It provides a process where people in dispute can work with a mediator to reach resolution and identify solutions that are right for them and their family. One major advantage of mediation is that it helps people to reach an early settlement, usually on good terms, factoring in legal costs and the emotional impact on the adults and children involved. In order for mediation to be successful there must be transparency of the information from both sides.
In financial disputes both parties will be required to provide full and frank financial disclosure to each other and the mediator so that a fair agreement can be reached. If the information given is not full and accurate, any agreement reached may be set aside. All information material to financial issues must be provided on an open basis, so that it can be referred to in court, either in support of an application made with the consent of the parties or in contested proceedings. This differs from the discussions about possible settlement terms which remain confidential.
The initial meeting will be used to identify the issues in dispute that both parties wish to discuss. The mediator will then identify what further information needs to be disclosed before discussions can take place. In financial cases this will typically involve both parties completing a full financial disclosure form. The mediator will then prepare an open financial statement which will record the financial disclosure of the parties.
The number of sessions required and the length of time it will take to conclude matters will depend on the complexity of the issues and whether all of the necessary information is available. To settle a simple case over children, sometimes two mediation sessions can be enough. For financial cases it may take six or seven mediation sessions or even longer depending on the complexity.
If mediation is successful and the parties reach an agreement, the mediator will prepare a memorandum of understanding reflecting the agreement for the parties to take away. This memorandum is not legally binding, and in some cases (e.g. financial agreements) will need to be converted into a legal document to be approved by the court to become legally binding on the parties.