An Agreement to Mediate is an agreement designed to make sure that all participants in a mediation process understand the terms and conditions under which the service takes place.
At Interact Support everything we do is designed to support clarity and transparency. We want you to understand and be comfortable working with us to develop parenting, financial and property agreements.
This post is designed to give you a bit more of an understanding about our standard Family Dispute Resolution (FDR) agreement to mediate.
Download a copy of the Agreement to Mediate here IO FDR Agreement to Mediate v8.20
Page One – Who is participating
The first page seeks to clearly identify who is participating in your Family Dispute Resolution process. If there are extra people to be involved your Family Dispute Resolution Practitioner will change the template and add them.
Confidentiality and Inadmissibility
It is important that you understand how the information you give during FDR can be used if you end up in court.
It can’t. FDR is a confidential process protected by the Family Law Act 1975.
Confidential means that what is discussed shouldn’t be talked about with people who are not affected or advising you. You should be very careful about what you say to your children about any conflict you have with their other parent. Talk to your practitioner if you have any concerns in this area.
Inadmissible means that what you learn in FDR or any offers made that do not form written and signed agreements, can not be used as evidence by a court.
There are situations that a FDR Practitioner will breach confidentiality (talk about confidential information with someone else) and these reasons are listed on the Agreement to Mediate. The main reason is to protect someone from harm or to prevent damage to property.
This part of the agreement describes your role, your rights, the process and your responsibilities.
Speaking for yourself
Our FDR service is designed to help you to speak directly for yourself and is not one where a lawyer represents you in a bargaining process.
If you fear talking to your former partner because of family violence we have High Conflict services available where you do not have to be in the same place or speak directly – High Conflict Family Dispute Resolution
Preparing for the process
In the pre-mediation session, the mediator will have checked in with you about your safety and the safety of others. They will also help you to prepare for mediation by giving you tools, resources and referrals to other professionals.
Please take the time to consider what you want and what you think would be a fair outcome from your parenting agreement or property settlement. Get legal and, if relevant, financial advice.
Get the valuations, documents and other information you need together and ready for mediation. It is important that you think about what you want, what you will accept and why.
Coming to mediation unprepared intending to see what the other person will offer or do is a waste of an opportunity. Don’t waste your time and money by failing to prepare. Please call your mediator or the office if you have any further questions or need more information.
The topics that are discussed in Family Dispute Resolution are highly important and emotional. You will be discussing and making decisions about what is best for your children and about financial issues that affect your security and sense of fairness.
In mediation, you will agree to manage your emotions and behave in a respectful way. This can be difficult when you are in conflict with someone but the mediator’s role is to help you both to stay calm, focused on the work at hand and manage the room. They may propose a break, help to reframe (look at things from another perspective) and check in with you to make sure you’re going OK.
It is fine to talk about what is happening for you, how it is making you feel and what you want. Lashing our, venting or any form of abuse is absolutely unacceptable.
The FDR Practitioners Responsibilities
The number one responsibility that a Family Dispute Resolution Practitioner has is to make sure that you, your former partner and your children are safe.
We now know that safety does not just relate to being safe from physical injury. In fact research shows that emotional and psychological abuse can have greater long-term negative consequences than low-level physical abuse.
You will be asked detailed questions to try to understand your family’s situation so that agreements can be reached that are in the best interests of your family and in particular your children.
If FDR is not suitable the FDR practitioner can refuse to take part or end the session without the need for any explanation as explaining why may increase risks. If they believe that you have been threatened or are at risk they will discuss their concerns with you.
Your mediator will work with you both in a way that is fair and impartial. That means that gender, race, age or any other characteristic should not impact the mediation. If a mediator feels that they can’t be impartial they will excuse themselves from the process and arrange for a different FDR Practitioner.
Potential Conflict of Interest
A conflict of interest is a situation where a mediator may have a benefit from a specific outcome from the mediation. This would affect their impartiality and prevent them from facilitating a fair process. There are some situations listed that could be seen as a potential conflict of interest such as previous acquaintance or professional relationship.
If something is identified the mediator will consider if it is likely to affect their impartiality.
If they do not believe it will they will discuss the potential conflict of interest with you and ask if you would like to continue with them or be referred to another mediator. If you would like to continue they will ask you to sign a form to show that the issue has been discussed and that you’ve agreed to go ahead.
If they think they may not be able to remain impartial they will refer you on to someone else.
Section 60i Certificates
These certificates are issued by accredited Family Dispute Resolution Practitioners to show that FDR has been requested or attempted.
Under the Family Law Act 1975 you must have a section 60i Certificate if you want to go to court about children’s matters unless an exemption applies.
Depending on the certificate issued a Judge may later order you to attend FDR or order either one of you to pay some or all the other party’s legal costs.
With Interact Support the cost of issuing a Section 60i Certificate is included in the fee for the mediation or pre-mediation where the need for the certificate was identified.
They are valid for 12 months.
If an agreement is reached
This part of the agreement explains what you can do if you reach an agreement in order to make it legally binding.
Mediators Qualifications, Feedback and Complaints
This part of the agreement identifies that all FDR practitioners you work with through Interact Support are accredited with the Federal Attorney Generals Department.
We also show how to give feedback and to raise concerns. Our staff are highly trained and are open to you raising any concerns you have directly with them but you can also approach the office if you don’t feel able to speak directly with your FDR Practitioner.
Fees and Duration of the Process
Interact Support does not have any government funding so our services are offered on a fee for service basis.
In family law situations it is common for one party to be in a better financial situation than the other, especially if there are young children requiring full-time care. That means that it is common for one party to pay a larger percentage of the fees or in some cases the full fee.
This does not affect impartiality and is not seen as a conflict of interest.
It is not possible to give you an indication of how long it will take to resolve your issues. We strongly encourage you to take the time you need to get the best outcome you can and not think that you have to resolve your issues in one session.
That is unrealistic unless you have a single issue to resolve or are just booking in for a check up of an existing parenting agreement or parenting plan.
To put it in proportion our fees are based on $198 per hour. A mediation session is usually booked for three hours if it is face to face and two to three hours if online. Our rates are per hour and not per person.
If you work with a lawyer to negotiate an agreement they will usually be working on the basis of $350 – $450 an hour and use a process that can be extremely slow and excessively demanding of information that is not in contention between you.
If you go to court it will take you months if not years to get a resolution and is likely to cost upwards of $25,000. Even one day in court represented by a barrister is likely to cost more than the most comprehensive mediation process and you will have many days in court as it takes a long time before there is a final hearing. This cost and time results in only about 15% of matters reaching a final order with the rest dropping out or reaching compromise agreements during the process.
How to proceed
If you have been asked to take part in FDR please read, sign and return the agreement to mediate. If you are not comfortable with doing that call the office or the mediator who contacted you to discuss your concerns.
If you are interested in participating you can book in for a pre-mediation session – Family Dispute Resolution Pre-Mediation Session or call the office on 1300 079 345 to discuss your situation and support needs.