Mediation Conferences in the Family Court started in 1981.
Prior to that date, all Family Court disputes in the Family Court were dealt with in a private Court but in a fairly formal setting with one spouse giving evidence first and being cross examined, and then the other spouse giving evidence and being cross examined.
There were few chances to refer the couple to counselling or to have an informal discussion on the issues before a Judge.
We have progressed a great deal in our legal procedures and, even in the Criminal Court, we have Status Hearings and in the Civil Court we have Judicial Settlement Conferences.
These have only been recent additions to our criminal and our civil procedure.
However, the Mediation Conference in the Family Court has now been with us for some 20 years. Either party, or the Court on its own order, can order a Mediation Conference between the parties which is chaired by a Family Court Judge. The parties can have their lawyers present with the leave of the Court.
We tell you "How To" below and give you the details of the relevant Rules of the Court.
Some Judges have different practices around the country. In some centres lawyers are generally not part of the mediation process and in other centres they are always present.
However, the Judge very much takes control of the mediation conference and the lawyers are there to assist only on a relatively minor basis.
There are many different styles in the Mediation Conference depending on the Judge but usually the Judge will try and identify the issues and try and mediate a consensus decision on all issues.
The Judge might even be able to settle the matter by way of Consent Orders.
No bullying takes place and, if the matter cannot be settled at the Mediation Conference, then the Judge who held the Mediation Conference might not be the Judge who ultimately has to judge the final hearing.
The Family Court aims to help people to sort out their differences themselves.
When one party applies for a separation, custody or an access order, both parties will usually be referred to counsell
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