The first thing you should do to prepare for mediation is ensure that you are emotionally and mentally prepared for the process. Discuss it with a trusted family member, friend, or professional such as a therapist. Be prepared to make concessions and compromises, as otherwise the mediation is almost guaranteed to fail. If you want to discuss schooling, it helps to come prepared with information about the relevant school/s (such as fees, curriculum, and extra-curricular activities) to provide the other party with. Similarly, if you want to discuss medical issues such as orthodontics relevant information such as fees and timeframes will be helpful. For financial matters, it is essential that all parties make full and frank disclosure of all significant assets (including superannuation), liabilities and financial resources (such as expected inheritances or compensation payouts) in their possession or control. For real estate, a real estate appraisal or formal valuation will likely be necessary.
As a family therapist and child consultant, I also offer child-inclusive mediation (CIM) services, drawing upon my dual qualifications and experience in both law and psychology. My CIM services are only provided in person. I do not conduct CMIs over Zoom as this could expose children to undue influence out of sight from the camera. I empower school-age children with a safe space to voice their lived experience. This can involve play and art therapy. I screen caregivers to safeguard against them using the children’s lived experience as a weapon against each other. I assess children for signs of trauma, attachment issues and third-party influence such as coaching or parental alienation. I reassure children that the dispute between their caregivers isn’t their fault, and encourage them to express their needs, concerns, and overall wishes. I discourage children from attempting to make decisions about their relationships with significant caregivers, such as who they live with and how much time they spend with them. To address the potential conflict of interest of me acting as both a mediator and child consultant / family therapist, I only disclose children’s wishes when they expressly ask me to do so. This process is non-reportable and cannot be used in Court proceedings.
A CIM has two parts. Part 1 involves me spending time with the children and their significant caregivers (usually parents). Part 2 involves mediating the issues in dispute between the parties with the agenda items being informed by the children’s lived experience.
I spend the morning of the CIM with significant caregivers (usually parents) and children either at my mediation and therapy rooms in Palm Beach on the Gold Coast or at a park or shopping centre near the CIM venue. I also observe how caregivers interact with the children. Caregivers can observe my interactions with the children from a safe distance but not within earshot, to afford children the benefit of both safety and privacy. After meeting with the children for 1-2 hours, I then debrief with the caregivers. Additional issues are sometimes raised during the debrief, which may necessitate me spending further time with the children during the morning session. The afternoon session can also occur at my rooms if lawyers are not attending. If there are numerous children involved or particularly complicated issues to consider, I may run the CIM over two days. Under these circumstances, Part 1 would occur on the first day and Part 2 would occur on the second day.