The Crucial Role of Mediation in Resolving Family Disputes

Safeguarding Children from Court Battles

Family disputes often unleash a whirlwind of emotions and turmoil, leaving a profound impact on everyone involved, particularly children. In these challenging times, the significance of mediation and conflict resolution cannot be overstated. Mediation not only offers a less adversarial approach to resolving conflicts but also shields the well-being of children who frequently find themselves caught in the midst of parental disagreements.

Impact on Children

When families opt for litigation to settle disputes, children inevitably become entangled in the legal fray, whether directly or indirectly. Courtrooms morph into battlegrounds where parental grievances are aired, and decisions regarding custody, visitation, and support are handed down by judges who may not fully grasp the intricacies of family dynamics. However, Judges endeavour to be fair and reasonable with the limited information at their disposal within the allocated time on the day. Some individuals mistakenly believe that judges are provided with the entire family history during a court case. However, this is untrue. Judges are presented with a snapshot of vital information on which to base their decisions. Given the waiting list and overflow of cases, your family matter is just one among thousands. The emotional toll on children embroiled in legal proceedings can be staggering. They often find themselves torn between their parents, grappling with feelings of anxiety, confusion, and even trauma from witnessing conflict between the individuals they love most. Court battles only serve to intensify these emotions, prolonging the uncertainty and instability in children’s lives.

Moreover, the adversarial nature of litigation frequently exacerbates tensions between parents, hindering their ability to co-parent effectively once legal proceedings conclude. Lingering resentment, animosity, and distrust can cast a long shadow over familial relationships, further compromising children’s well-being and sense of security.

The Role of Mediation “Dial things back”

In stark contrast, mediation offers a collaborative and child-centered approach to resolving family disputes. A skilled mediator fosters constructive communication between parents, guiding them toward identifying common ground, exploring solutions, and reaching agreements that prioritise the best interests of their children.

Mediation empowers parents to retain control over the decision-making process, enabling them to craft solutions tailored to their unique family circumstances. By nurturing open dialogue and fostering mutual respect, mediation can mend fractured relationships and establish a foundation for effective co-parenting in the future.

As a mediator, I find the most challenging aspect of mediation is when parents fail to advocate for their children during the process. These parents often remain entrenched in their own narrative, grappling with their pain or guilt. Successful mediation occurs when parents can transcend their personal emotions and prioritise the well-being of their children in all discussions and decisions. Mediation is not a fault find expedition, it does however require accountability and responsibility. There are two people in the relationship, and it will take two people to reach agreement.

Protecting Children through Mediation

One of mediation’s most significant benefits in family disputes lies in its ability to shield children from the adversarial nature of litigation. Instead of being thrust into the heart of a legal battle, children are spared the trauma of courtroom drama, ICL’s independent children lawyers, and the process of family reporting. Mediation helps shield children from the acrimony between their parents.

Mediation empowers parents to prioritise creating a safe and supportive environment for their children, free from the stress and uncertainty of protracted litigation. By resolving disputes amicably and preserving parental relationships, mediation promotes stability and emotional well-being for children, allowing them to flourish despite the challenges they may encounter.

Conclusion

In the tumult of family disputes, prioritising children’s needs is paramount. Mediation offers a compassionate and child-focused approach to conflict resolution, empowering parents to collaborate in the best interests of their children. By embracing mediation over litigation, families can mitigate the adverse effects of disputes on children and pave the way for a brighter and more harmonious future.

Mediation does depend on the ability of each adult to self-manage, the mediator is there to help you and your family. You will be asked questions some more difficult than others.

The decision to separate or divorce should not be taken lightly

Approximately half of marriages conclude in divorce. However, the decision to separate remains emotionally challenging, burdened by feelings and responsibilities. While divorce is a valid choice, it necessitates careful contemplation, particularly when considering factors such as salvaging the relationship and navigating the complexities of official separation, especially with shared assets or children involved. When you decide to divorce and you have children, you not only choose to change your life, but you also choose to change your children’s childhood.

As a counsellor and Mediator I have guided numerous individuals through this challenging process, I emphasise the importance of asking essential questions before deciding to split. These questions are designed to foster self-reflection and open communication between partners.

One crucial consideration is the potential salvaging of the relationship. Before involving the partner, individuals are advised to reflect on their current needs and assess whether the relationship has the potential for positive change. Evaluate past problem-solving dynamics and identifying any “danger traits” like constant criticism, contempt, defensiveness, or stonewalling, which may indicate relationship deterioration.

Communication is key when expressing unhappiness and discussing the possibility of change. If both partners decide to work through their issues, individual and couples therapy could be a constructive next step.

Another vital question is whether both partners are on the same page regarding the separation. Recognising that relationship breakdowns are often non-linear processes, it’s important to have clear and decisive communication to ensure mutual understanding and potentially amicable proceedings.

The matter of parenting arrangements comes into focus next. I advise re-framing custody discussions into a focus on being the best parents for the children. Planning should prioritise the quality of time spent with the children rather than quantity, emphasising the children’s well-being in terms of living arrangements, schooling, and transportation.

Addressing housing concerns, it is important to maintain open communication, clear boundaries, and to look for pragmatic solutions. Couples may decide to continue living together temporarily or explore creative housing arrangements, such as rotating in and out of the family home, keeping the children in their family home. This is called “nesting.”

Financial considerations are pivotal, thorough assessment of joint and individual assets, including savings, property, pensions, investments, and businesses etc…. Seeking the advice of financial professionals is encouraged to ensure fair division, especially when children are involved.

Legal aspects of financial arrangements are discussed next, highlighting the option of obtaining a legally binding consent order if both parties agree on financial terms. This can prevent unnecessary legal complications and costs.

Finally, the importance of separating amicably is emphasised. Couples are reminded that legal battles are not the only option, they are long expensive and can be soul destroying. There are alternatives such as counselling, mediation, or collaborative family group counselling can offer less emotionally and financially draining solutions.

Handling the divorce process with dignity and respect for both partners and their wider network of loved ones can contribute to a less painful memory of the experience.

Note: If you do decide to divorce and you have children, you are divorcing your partner not your children. Your relationship did not fail because of your children, but the children may see the marriage break down as their fault. Children may benefit from speaking to a family counsellor.

Reminder of Christmas Holidays

Just a quick reminder we will be closing for the Christmas break Dec 18th 2023 to January 18th 2024

Those couples who are going through the 30 days to a deeper connection program, you may need to plan your sessions in advance to make sure your dates are locked in within the next fortnight.

The 5th step on the program is the most important step please try to not miss this step before Christmas.

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What is a safe amount of Alcohol to drink while pregnant? Answer: NIL- ZERO

Fetal Alcohol Syndrome is a life long mental and physical diagnoses, it is on the rise and it is TOTALLY preventable by mums abstaining from drinking alcohol whilst pregnant. If you are planning to become pregnant abstain from drinking alcohol whilst trying to become pregnant.

What are the problems of a baby born with FAS? https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5plu6_L6_lY

https://www.fasdhub.org.au/fasd-information/understanding-fasd/fasd-and-alcohol-policies/

Physical defects may include: Distinctive facial features, including small eyes, an exceptionally thin upper lip, a short, upturned nose, and a smooth skin surface between the nose and upper lip. Deformities of joints, limbs and fingers. Slow physical growth before and after birth NB: not all FAS babies show distinctive facial features.

What is a safe amount of Alcohol to drink while pregnant? Answer: NIL- ZERO

​Does FASD shorten life expectancy?

Depending on early diagnosis and support, life expectancies can increase; however, on average, people with FAS are estimated to live 34 years (95% CI: 31–37 years), which is around 42% of the life expectancies of their general population peers 11 Nov 2020
Many people, Adults and Children are being treated for ADHD who have been misdiagnosed, who actually have FASD.

How long do the effects of fetal alcohol syndrome last?

FASDs last a lifetime. There is no cure for FASDs, but treatments can help. These include medicines to help with some symptoms, medical care for health problems, behavior and education therapy, and parent training. A good treatment plan is specific to the child’s problems.

What is a safe amount to drink while pregnant? NIL

There is no known safe level of alcohol exposure during pregnancy.

There is no safe time, no safe amount, and no safe type of alcohol. Alcohol can harm a developing fetus at any point during a pregnancy, even before the pregnancy is confirmed. As 50% of Australian women experience an unplanned pregnancy, many are prenatally exposed to alcohol before the family becomes aware of the pregnancy. If you could be pregnant, or are planning a pregnancy, health professionals advise that abstinence from alcohol is safest. If you choose to drink alcohol, effective contraception is important to prevent unintentional prenatal alcohol exposure. Alcohol use during pregnancy can increase the risk of miscarriage, stillbirth, preterm (early) birth, and SIDS, and can also result in FASD, which is a lifelong disability. The National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) advises that “maternal alcohol consumption can harm the developing fetus or breastfeeding baby”. NHMRC Guidelines recommend: A. To prevent harm from alcohol to their unborn child, women who are pregnant or planning a pregnancy should not drink alcohol. For women who are breastfeeding, not drinking alcohol is safest for their baby. Healthy pregnancies are not the sole responsibility of women. A fathers’ alcohol consumption impacts the health of his developing baby and partners play a strong role in supporting alcohol-free pregnancy. Ceasing alcohol use together has been proven to be the most effective way to ensure a healthy pregnancy. Read more about what men can do to support healthy pregnancy or read about this couple’s plan for an alcohol-free pregnancy. Follow this link to download The Australian Guidelines to Reduce Health Risks from Drinking Alcohol.

Useful apps: The Daybreak app by Hello Sunday Morning helps people change their relationship with alcohol.
Chat with health coaches and access a supportive community with their free app. Mind the Bump is a free Mindfulness Meditation App to help individuals and couples support their mental and emotional wellbeing in preparation for having a baby.

Where alcohol exposure has occurred, lowering stress levels reduces the likelihood of negative outcomes for the baby. The Swipe app is a personalised brain-training app that aims to reduce alcohol consumption and cravings. The results of the study have now been published (showing significant reductions in drinking days, standard drinks, alcohol craving and dependence after 4 weeks of using swipe)   To review the results please click here  For more information regarding the SWiPE app for download go to www.swipebraintraining.com.au

Useful links: The latest research-backed information on the healthiest options for you, your partner, and your baby– from Telethon Kids Institute Questions & Answers about Alcohol Use & PregnancyTrue and False FASD Fast FactsIt’s not just Mums who need to avoid alcohol when trying for a babyWhat men can do – alcohol, pregnancy and prevention of FASD Alcohol & Breastfeeding from the Australian Breastfeeding Association Busting the myths on alcohol and breastfeedingFeed Safe – alcohol & breastfeeding app free download Hello Sunday Morning – helpful resources for changing your drinking behaviour

The disabilities associated with FASDs are said to be lifelong, but we know relatively little regarding outcomes beyond childhood and adolescence. Many of physical, brain, and neurobehavioral features that are present in children with FASDs will endure to adulthood.

The life expectancy of people with FAS is considerably lower than that of the general population. As the cause of FAS is known and preventable, more attention devoted to the prevention of FAS is urgently needed.

What is Parental Alienation- Are you allowing your unresolved divorce/separation/personal issues to turn you into an alienating parent?

NOTE: There are many variables to consider in separation, however all decisions should be made with the best interests of the child/children front of mind

Working in the field over the years as a Counsellor, Mediator and Family Group Facilitator, it can be tough to call out Parental Alienation behaviours and report on this to the court when required, through court orders. In many circumstances the person doing the alienating may have little consciousness of their behaviour and the phycological harm they are causing the child/children long term. I do my best to encourage parents to place their anger and dislike for one another aside and to remain child-focused. This is not always easy, as most couples are going through the courts already, fighting over the financial settlement, goods and chattels and custody. This environment does not set the stage for a harmonious meeting of any sorts. However in all areas of life there needs to be personal responsibility and if behaviours do not change there will be accountability.

What is parental alienation and how does the Family Court see it?

Parental alienation refers to a situation in which one parent, usually in the context of a divorce or separation, deliberately or unconsciously tries to undermine or damage the relationship between a child and the other parent. This behaviour often involves speaking negatively about the other parent, making false accusations, limiting contact or visitation, and manipulating the child’s emotions to turn them against the targeted parent. The goal of the alienating parent is to make the child feel anger, fear, or hatred towards the other parent.

Parental alienation is a highly contentious and emotionally charged issue, as it can have significant negative effects on the child’s well-being and the parent-child relationship. The psychological and emotional harm caused by parental alienation can be long-lasting and may lead to estrangement between the child and the targeted parent.

As for the Australian Family Courts, their stance on parental alienation may vary depending on individual cases and circumstances. The courts are generally concerned with the best interests of the child and aim to ensure the child’s well-being and safety. In cases where parental alienation is suspected or proven, the courts may take various measures to address the issue. Some possible actions that the courts might take include:

Mediation or counselling: The court may order the parties to attend mediation or counselling to work through the issues and improve communication.

Parenting orders: The court may issue specific parenting orders that outline the responsibilities and rights of each parent to prevent further alienation and protect the child’s relationship with both parents.

Supervised visitation: In extreme cases, the court may order supervised visitation for the alienating parent to ensure that they do not engage in harmful behaviours during their time with the child.

Parenting programs: The court may require the alienating parent to attend parenting programs aimed at promoting healthy co-parenting and minimizing conflict.

Change of custody or residence: In severe cases, if it is determined that one parent is consistently engaging in alienating behaviours and causing significant harm to the child’s relationship with the other parent, the court may consider a change of custody or residence to protect the child’s well-being.

It is important to note that parental alienation is a complex issue, and each case is unique. The courts will carefully consider the evidence and the specific circumstances before making decisions that are in the best interests of the child. If you are dealing with parental alienation or a related issue, it is advisable to seek legal advice and support from professionals experienced in family law matters.

Parental alienation can cause significant harm to a child’s psychological, emotional, and social well-being. The negative effects can be long-lasting and may continue into adulthood if the issue is not addressed. It is “Child Abuse” Are you allowing your unresolved divorce/separation/personal issues to turn you into an alienating parent?  While you wouldn’t do anything to directly harm your children, your behaviour regarding the other parent can be detrimental to your children.

Some of the potential harms of parental alienation on a child include:

Emotional distress: Children caught in the middle of parental alienation may experience intense emotional distress, including feelings of sadness, confusion, guilt, and anxiety. They might feel torn between their parents and struggle to understand the reasons behind the conflict.

Low self-esteem: Being subjected to negative messages about one of their parents can lead the child to internalize those messages, resulting in lowered self-esteem and a negative self-image.

Identity confusion: Parental alienation can create confusion for the child about their own identity and their place within their family.

Difficulty forming healthy relationships: Children who have experienced parental alienation may struggle to form healthy relationships in the future, as they may have difficulty trusting others and fear getting hurt or abandoned.

Increased risk of mental health issues: Alienated children may be at a higher risk of developing mental health issues, such as depression, anxiety, and even personality disorders, due to the emotional turmoil they experience.

Academic and behavioural problems: The stress caused by parental alienation can affect a child’s academic performance and behaviour at school, leading to a decline in their overall well-being.

Long-term impact: Parental alienation can have lasting effects on the child’s ability to cope with stress and relationships throughout their life, affecting their overall quality of life as adults.

Difficulty in future co-parenting relationships: Alienated children may find it challenging to have healthy co-parenting relationships with their parents in the future, perpetuating the cycle of conflict and alienation.

It is crucial to recognise the signs of parental alienation and address the issue as early as possible to minimise the harm caused to the child. Professional counselling and intervention, along with the cooperation of both parents, can help mitigate the negative effects of parental alienation and support the child’s emotional well-being. Family courts may play a role in identifying and addressing cases of parental alienation to protect the best interests of the child involved.

Ted Talk on Parental Alienation: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cu4XXnKPwCM

Drawing Distinctions: Therapy Vs. Counselling Vs. Mediation

Conflict is a part of life; it can happen in all your relationships, whether with friends, family and significant others. But no matter the level of conflict, how we deal with that conflict determines whether or not we are happy and successful. Some forms of conflict can be mild, while others stem from a deeper unresolved issue. There are many different ways to deal with conflict, but three of the most popular are therapy, counselling, and mediation. So, what’s the difference between these three? “What is the Definition of Mediation in Psychology?” Mediation is a process in which two or more people attempt to reach an agreement on a disputed issue. It’s typically facilitated by a third party, such as a mediator, who remains neutral throughout the process and doesn’t take sides.

Mediators are neither counsellors nor therapists. Although they have quasi-comparable skills, they are not qualified or trained to support parties who wish to reconcile by exploring deep-rooted historical problems or issues. If this type of service is required for conflict resolution, mediators will refer the parties to suitable therapists and counsellors for appropriate support. 

Mediation aims to come to a resolution that everyone can agree on. This type of conflict resolution is often used in cases where the parties involved are willing to negotiate and compromise, more often seen in families amid separation. However, family mediation is also helpful for more common issues, although therapists are often hired for more deep-rooted family problems. They can also get family counselling to resolve recurring issues. “So, What Do Mediators Do?” They empower parties in conflict to remain future-focused. The parties are encouraged to shelf issues that don’t help them or their families instead of staying stuck in the past. For couples intending to divorce, mediators will help them make informed decisions about their separation issues. It mainly covers and explores arrangements for their dependents. 

In family mediation, parties may also explore softer topics, such as communication difficulties and boundary setting to help family members reach mutually acceptable agreements or understandings on critical issues.

wooden puzzle blocks with man, woman, and mediation icon

The Benefits of Mediation

Since mediation is a guided negotiation often needed to reach a compromise and settle disputes. It provides plenty of benefits, such as

    • It’s usually faster than going to court since parties can reach an agreement quicker.
    • It’s less expensive compared to settling matters through court.
    • It provides appropriate support for both parties since mediators act as neutral facilitators.
    • It’s confidential, which means that what is said during mediation cannot be used in court.
    • It allows you to have control over the outcome of the dispute.
    • It can help improve communication and relationships.
    • It can help resolve conflicts peacefully.
    • It’s voluntary since any party can withdraw from the mediation anytime.
    • It’s convenient since the mediation is arranged with the convenience of the parties in mind.

If you’re facing a conflict you can solve with compromise, consider mediation to resolve it. Therapy vs Counselling Therapy and counselling are both forms of psychological treatment. However, there are some critical differences between the two.

Counselling is typically shorter-term than therapy and focuses on resolving a specific issue. While it does have greater breadth than mediation, it’s often more present-focused and will address recurring problems in a relationship. Counselling can also include skill development to help mitigate those regular issues. 

Although there may only be a single problem in a relationship, it is generally the case that the same issue keeps causing problems, undermining the parties’ satisfaction with the connection. Counselling can address such issues without delving into one’s personal history.

On the other hand, therapy is typically longer-term and focuses less on what needs to be resolved and more on the reason behind the conflict. It’s often more future-focused and seeks to prevent conflict from happening again. This type of conflict resolution provides the most significant depth and breadth to addressing relationship issues since it delves into the past. 

By understanding the reason behind the conflict, therapists also encourage parties to explore their history and the possible contributions their past has made to their current relationship. In this case, a change of behaviour is usually expected.

therapist consulting with a clientThe Benefits of Therapy

There are many benefits to therapy for individuals, couples and families, including the following: Individual Therapy

    • It can help you improve your communication skills
    • It can empower you to develop fresh perspectives on your life.
    • It can help you learn how to make healthier choices.
    • It can help you develop coping skills for stress management.
    • It can help you understand the root cause of your conflict.
    • It can help you learn new skills to prevent conflict in the future.
    • It can help you improve relationships with others.
    • It’s often longer-term, which means you can explore issues in depth and make lasting changes.

Family Therapy

    • It can help families evaluate and treat mental health concerns (issues related to substance abuse, trauma and depression).
    • It can help families address relationship issues within the family.
    • It helps family members develop collaboration and individual coping skills.
    • It can help families evaluate and treat emotional disorders.
    • It can help family members improve how they communicate with each other.
    • It helps family members identify ways to find healthy support.

Couples Therapy

    • It can help couples communicate better.
    • It can restore lost trust.
    • It can resolve conflicts more effectively.
    • It can increase shared support.
    • It can restore intimacy.
    • It can help couples form a stronger bond.

If you’re facing a conflict with deep-rooted issues, consider therapy as a way to resolve it. You may be surprised at how effective it can be.

Counselling vs Mediation While counselling and mediation are forms of conflict resolution, the two have some key differences.

Mediation is typically directed at resolving a particular dispute by focusing on the futuristic implications of the issue and reaching a compromise that works for everyone. Meanwhile, counselling tends to focus on the present, addressing recurring problems in the relationship by helping the parties develop skills to mitigate issues.

couple holding hands

The Benefits of Counselling

There are many benefits to counselling, including the following:

    • It can help you understand and resolve your conflict.
    • It stimulates a positive disposition.
    • It can help you relieve unpleasant emotions and move on.
    • It enables you to develop openness and acceptance.
    • It can help improve communication and relationships.
    • It paves the way for new perspectives.
    • It can help you learn new skills to prevent conflict in the future.
    • It provides comfort and security.
    • It nurtures mental wellness.

If you’re facing a recurring conflict, consider counselling as a way to resolve it.

What about Coaching? Coaching is often confused with therapy or counselling. However, coaching is different because it focuses on helping people achieve specific goals. It is a highly individualised and personalised well-being intervention that works for individuals and various relationships. Coaches don’t focus on the past or on resolving conflict. Instead, they work with their clients to help them identify and achieve their goals. 

Coaching should empower individuals to find the answers within themselves. In this case, the coachee is the one who should set goals and determine what success looks like instead of the coach.

The Benefits of Coaching

There are many benefits to coaching, including the following:

    • It can help you achieve specific goals.
    • It can help improve communication and relationships.
    • It can improve self-awareness.
    • It helps develop resilience and increase stress tolerance.
    • It allows people to collaborate better.
    • It improves self-efficacy.
    • It helps build and maintain an excellent work-life balance.
    • It nourishes mental health.

If you need guidance in resolving conflict or achieving a specific goal, consider coaching as a way to help you develop actionable strategies. “How Do I Know Which is Right for Me?” So, which one is right for you? It really depends on your specific situation. If you have a particular dispute that you need to resolve, mediation may be a good option. Counselling may be a better option if you’re dealing with recurring conflicts in your relationship. And if you want to understand the root cause of your conflict and learn how to prevent it in the future, therapy may be the best choice.

The best way to determine which of these conflict resolution methods is right for you is to speak with a qualified professional. They will be able to assess your situation and help you find the best way to move forward.

husband and wife in a therapy sessionGet Therapy, Counselling and Mediation from Qualified Professionals at DIPAC Therapy, counselling, mediation and coaching are all great ways to have a fulfilling and happy life. The best part is that they work for individuals, families and all kinds of relationships. So, if you think you need any of these services, contact DIPAC to get in touch with experienced and licensed professionals who provide assistance with compassion. 

We are Australia’s leading provider of online therapy, counselling, mediation and coaching services. Every client has a special circumstance. As such, we provide a wide range of services to meet every unique case. We provide relationship counselling, family counselling and many other services. Contact us to learn more about our online and face-to-face services.