Let’s face it the end of a marriage or de facto relationship is a sad and uncertain time for most people and with nearly half of marriages ending in divorce the chances are that you or someone you know will go through this experience at least once in their lives.
When a significant relationship ends, this is the time when people need support, empathy and guidance to resolve their concerns and issues. It is not unusual to feel isolated and alone or to feel angry and devastated that the person you gave a life commitment to has pulled the plug, it’s all over, leaving you to fend for yourself. It’s times like this you may want to go out and hire the most aggressive lawyer and “get them for all they’ve got”, spending the next few years of your life in the court room.
Before you start to think about going down the litigation path – stop, breathe and think. Think of yourself, think of your children and think of your future. Ask yourself this question “ why do I need to spend my hard earnt dollars, fighting in court for years on end, to be frustrated and disappointed and not get the results I want.”
Mediation conducted with the assistance of supportive family lawyers is good for your emotional health, because it creates the space for you to speak with your ex- spouse in a respectful and meaningful way about the concerns you each have and can reduce your sense of dread and uncertainty.
Unlike going to court, mediation is an opportunity to be open and genuinely express your feelings, thoughts and concerns and an opportunity to work through insecurities and uncertainties to reach mutual agreements.
Case Study of Frank and Sarah from Balmain
Frank and Sarah were married for 11 years and had one child Noah aged 9 years. During the marriage Frank was emotionally abusive to Sarah and Sarah would often retreat and give Frank the silent treatment for days on end. At mediation, Sarah was supported to express her fear of Frank and to tell him that she felt frightened of him for most of their marriage. At first Frank was defensive and angry but after some consideration, he was able to apologise to Sarah and also explain to her how he had felt rejected and lonely during the marriage.
As Frank and Sarah wanted to co -parent Noah it was important that they could start their separation with a new way of communicating with each other.
Unlike the public display of the court room, where anybody can attend and listen to your most private and intimate details, mediation is conducted behind closed doors, with lawyers and mediators only. Everyone who participates in the mediation agrees that the mediation is confidential and in that way transparency, honesty and openness is encouraged and promoted.
Whether you are mediating parenting matters or property matter, the duty of being transparent, providing all financial documents and focusing on what is best for the children, the rules remain the same. The only difference with mediation is that you cut to the chase and you look at what is relevant to you and your current circumstances. For example , in a financial matter where a couple has been together for a long time, you may not want to waste time looking at your ex’s last three years of tax returns or the last 12 months of banks statements and credit card statement. It might just be enough that you receive a copy of the current pay slips or look at the bank statements that are of concern or maybe not at all.
There is nothing more deflating than going to Court, sitting behind your lawyer and hearing the judge, say “ well Mr Jones, I just don’t see how your client is going to get what he wants “ Mediation is not about disempowering you or deflating you, it’s all about empowering you to negotiate and to be flexible to be able to reach agreements that allow you to move on in life with confidence.
Mediation is great value for money. At a fraction of the price of litigation, it’s a no brainer. Even where mediations involve lawyers or other collaborative professionals it’s still so much cheaper than litigation by far.
Pamela Cominos is a specialist family lawyer, collaborative lawyer and mediator.
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