The Christmas holiday period generally sees couples spending an increased amount of time together. The kids are on school holidays, the in-laws are in town, emotions are running high and financial difficulties can sometimes arise. Unfortunately, not all couples make it through this period, with family law practitioners often noting an influx in matters relating to separations which have occurred over the holidays.
The Family Court of Australia is currently inundated with well-publicised delays, meaning that it is in the best interests of separating parties to attempt to resolve their disputes without the need for litigation.
In line with the recent Family Law blitz, in order to decrease the backlog in the Family Court, a large number of cases will be referred to Family Mediation (as well as other forms of alternate dispute resolution, such as arbitration) in the foreseeable future. In that respect, I highly recommend that parties facing disputes relating to separations consider mediation in the first instance.

WHAT IS MEDIATION
Mediation is a process whereby parties to a dispute are assisted by a mediator, a neutral and impartial third party, who will help them try to resolve the matter. A mediator typically listens to the parties and helps to identify the disputed issues, the needs of each side, any relevant goals and the options available to help resolve each issue.
The aim of mediation is to assist the parties in reaching an equitable agreement, if an agreement is indeed appropriate within the specific circumstances. It is important to note that a mediator is not an advisor and, therefore, is not permitted to make a determination.

WHEN CAN MEDIATION BE USED IN FAMILY LAW?
Generally speaking, parties can participate in mediation to resolve a dispute at any given time. Such disputes may relate to parenting or property matters, although there is currently no requirement that mediation occurs prior to commencing court proceedings in property matters. Conversely, the Family Law Act 1975 does require that parties to a parenting dispute attempt mediation before the matter can be brought before the Family Court, although there are various exceptions in instances of family violence, or otherwise urgent cases.
Irrespective of any mandate, so as not to contribute to the current delays already encompassing the Family Court, it is beneficial for the parties to attempt to resolve their dispute without the assistance of the Court.

Adam West is an Accredited Specialist in family law and a Principal with Coleman Greig Lawyers. He has lived in the Hills District with his family for many years and represents clients from the region in resolving parenting disputes, financial and property matters. Adam is available at Coleman Greig’s Norwest, Parramatta or Penrith offices. www.colemangreig.com.au
This article is sponsored by Coleman Greig Lawyers.

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