Understanding Family Mediation

Yellow flower bloomed in the forest

What is Family Mediation?
Family Mediation is a process in which the Husband and Wife in divorce have an opportunity to communicate openly with each other and explore options and come into a voluntary and amicable settlement through the assistance of a mediator instead of going straight to a divorce lawyer.

What are the advantages of settling a dispute through Family Mediation?
There are great savings in terms of legal costs and time. Litigation costs do not come cheap and the entire litigation process usually takes a longer time to complete than the mediation process. The amount of mental stress on parties involved in a divorce litigation suit can be formidable. Often, the acrimony of a highly contested divorce suit may traumatise young children of the divorce couple. When both parties reach a settlement by consent through mediation, the parties feel more responsible, more involved in the decision making and as such are less likely to breach the terms of the court order.

Will I be forced into an agreement in mediation?
No. All settlement agreements made in mediations are entirely voluntary. No one will compel or force you to accept any solutions that you are not comfortable with.

What is the role of the mediator?
The mediator is a third party person who will remain neutral and impartial throughout the session. The mediator facilitates discussions and negotiations between the parties. The mediator is not an adjudicator or a judge, he or she cannot impose any solutions on the parties.

Will information discussed in mediation be made known to the Court?
No. Parties are encouraged to speak their minds in mediations. All information and matters discussed during the mediation are confidential. Should there be no settlement and the parties proceed for the divorce hearing, all information disclosed or discussed in the mediation cannot be used or relied on as evidence. Any concessions made during the mediation will not prejudice your position in legal proceedings.

Why do I need a trained mediator? Can I ask a mutual friend or a relative to help?
The mediation process is focused on problem-solving as opposed to a litigation process that involves fact finding and application of law. In a family mediation, the family mediator is trained to help parties explore the interests behind their positions, thus helping the parties to work towards an agreed solution. An experienced and trained family mediator may be able to steer parties to an amicable settlement after an open negotiation of the parties’ needs and wants.

Would I be compromising my position if I do not have “my day in court”?
Divorce is not just a legal process. Research shows that the emotional impact of a divorce can be as severe as that of a death in the immediate family. Thus, the decision to end a marriage relationship is often a traumatic event for most people. It would be better for the divorce to be resolved competently and promptly, so that the parties may be able to get over the grief and move on with their separate lives.

In a typical divorce litigation suit, the so-called “winning” party does not usually feel elated with his “winnings”. In many cases, both parties in a divorce may end up feeling like “losers” regardless of the court’s determination.

If the divorce couple were to have “their day in court” by going through the entire litigation process, the relationship between the parties may be further soured and made even more acrimonious. This is because litigation is adversarial in nature. In comparison, mediation is non-adversarial and it gives the parties a chance to explore creative options together often resulting in a win-win solution.

Pui Khim Ng

Ng Pui Khim is a senior lawyer with over 20 years of private practice experience focusing on divorces (family and matrimonial law), real estate (conveyancing practice), wills and succession law.
Pui Khim Ng
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