BFLC’s Educational Series: How can I reach an agreement?
Part 1: Our Top 4 Tips to Help You Reach an Agreement at Mediation
In family law land, reaching an agreement about your finances and your children is one of the trickiest parts in resolving matters and moving on. With emotions running high from the loss of your relationship, it can be really difficult to negotiate with your former spouse and ultimately come to an agreement about such important topics.
In our experience, asking your lawyers to write extensive letters back and forth rarely gets the two of you on the same page to make decisions. Nor does it help in getting you in the emotional and mental head space needed to be able to move on.
The reality is, no matter how nicely worded a letter may be; that was your life and your relationship. There is a coldness in legal letters as it typically takes away the human, emotive element of separation. These letters tend to deal only with the legal principles of how your property and possession should be divided or what arrangements are in your children’s best interests.
We find that the things keeping you (and probably your ex) up at night, are rarely legal in nature. For most people, reading legal letters about their own separation tends to be a pretty painful, overwhelming and exhausting experience and does very little to help them reach an agreement.
If that is how a letter can make you feel, imagine how you would feel if you had to read Court documents about your relationship! Fortunately, there are other pathways that can lead you to an agreement, and at Brisbane Family Law Centre, these particular pathways are what we specialise in.
One of the pathways is ‘mediation’. This pathway helps to open the communication lines so that you and your former spouse are in control of the outcome whilst still maintaining a level of respect for each other. This style of negotiating is one of the most common ways we resolve matters on a final basis. It does not require attendance at Court. It is completely confidential. It usually results in a legally binding agreement. And the best bit? It has a really high success rate!
But like all good things, the key to a successful mediation is preparation by both parties, their lawyers and of course, an experienced family law mediator. There is a high level of detail and work that goes into preparing for a mediation so we have come up with our top 4 tips for a successful mediation.
Diagnose your issues in dispute.
In any family law matter, there are two types of “issues” that may need to be resolved at mediation:
- issues relating to your finances; and
- issues relating to your children.
Are the issues solely related to your finances or are there parenting matters you would also like to discuss? How far apart are you and your former spouse on these issues? Where are you agreed?
Diagnosing your issues in dispute from the outset helps to set the agenda for the mediation and ensure everyone attends the mediation with a focus on discussing and ultimately resolving those issues.
Gather and share information that is relevant to the issue in dispute.
The key word here is ‘relevant’. For example, there is likely very little need to bring along years’ worth of bank statements if you are discussing parenting arrangements.
What is ‘relevant’ will depend on the issue in dispute but most commonly may include things like:
- Bank statements
- Tax returns
- Valuations of property or businesses
- Child support assessments.
This information should be provided to your former spouse (and vice versa) well in advance of any mediation so that both parties have all the information at hand and reduce the chances of being ‘surprised’ by new information at the mediation.
Know your options
Once you have all of the relevant information, you should start to consider the potential ‘proposals’ or ‘offers’ that you may like the mediator to put forward on your behalf. As a general guide, we like to prepare at least three different proposals or offers which range from ‘perfect world’ to ‘not so perfect, but doable’.
You should also think about the practical difficulties and realities with any proposal or offers that you are planning to make. For example, if you would like to retain a specific property and your former spouse thinks this is not possible, you should make enquiries with a bank to ensure you have the financial capacity to commit to such a proposal before making the offer.
For a parenting matter, you should ensure your proposals are reasonable and practically fit with the children’s routines and your respective work commitments.
Be prepared to compromise
Every mediation will involve compromise by both parties. Usually each party will feel like have had to compromise more than the other. Remember, it takes two to tango and reach an agreement. An experienced family lawyer and mediator will be able to assist you through this and help remind you of what’s most important. In reality, it is usually a case of picking your battles, prioritising your goals and understanding what you can live with for other things.
For your own personalised Mediation Preparation Package at a fixed price, contact our office today on (07) 3862 1955 or via email firstname.lastname@example.org. Alternatively, for more general information about mediation and family law, you may like to register for our upcoming Family Law Information Sessions.
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