Lynda Kearns: Mediating relationship property cases

During the first lockdown I presented a paper with Grant Allan a well-respected mediator on mediating relationship property cases. A copy of the paper is available on request.

Because of the delay and cost in resolving cases through a court process, family law practitioners encourage their clients to resolve their property disputes through a mediation process. It is of critical importance however to choose the right mediator who should be experienced, have a good reputation of being able to resolve disputes and be knowledgeable in the family law area.

Mediation is privileged. That means that discussions which occur in the context of a mediation cannot be used as evidence later in a court process and the discussions remain confidential to those attending. The only formal record which can emerge from a mediation is a record of any final agreement reached once the parties have had legal advice before signing off on the deal.

Mediation can be emotionally exhausting. The parties may be facing each other during the day for the first time since they separated. They will need to hear the other’s point of view and be ready to express their own views. They will need to make decisions as the day progresses as to whether they are prepared to compromise the position to reach agreement.

It is therefore important to be as prepared for a mediation as one would be for a court case. Your lawyer should have a complete knowledge of the facts of your case, be familiar with the relevant legal principles at issue and have discussed these with you. Before you go to a mediation you should have been advised by your lawyer as to what the likely result could be if you went to court, the cost of going to court, the risks of litigation, and the benefits to you in settlement.

It can be helpful to have a support person available and often parties will have their forensic accountant either at the mediation or available at short notice. There does need however to be agreement as to who attends a mediation and that should be an organised well in advance.

Generally, mediation has a very high rate of success in resolving relationship property disputes. With the right preparation and right mediator, it can be the most effective method of achieving settlements without the cost time and emotional stress of a lengthy court process.