What is alternative dispute resolution?

In general terms, alternative dispute resolution or ADR is a process of facilitated negotiations that is an alternative to proceedings that are determined by a person or persons with delegated powers to make decisions such as a court or tribunal.

There are many forms of ADR such as Online Dispute Resolution – ODR, Mediation, Conciliation, Early Evaluation and Arbitration. Although technically a form of ADR, Arbitration involves an expert in the area of the dispute, mutually agreed by the parties to make a determination.
At Accredited Mediation Services, we focus on offering mediation, because unlike many other forms of ADR, the process is led by
a third party who is accredited and trained in accordance with the National Mediation Association Standards (NMAS) or is registered at the Attorney-General's Department as a Family Dispute Resolution Practitioner.
The mediator has no vested interest in the dispute. They are neutral and so they do not judge, evaluate or take sides during mediation. A mediator assists parties by facilitating discussion about the issues and will adopt a model designed to focus on the future and the resolution of the dispute.

Do I need a lawyer?

The simple answer is no, however in some cases parties may wish to engage a lawyer to provide them with legal advice throughout the process regarding any rights and obligations regarding terms of agreement. A mediator is impartial at all times and this means they cannot provide the parties with independent legal advice even if they are a lawyer. If you decide that it is best for your lawyer or another professional advisor to attend mediation each party pays for their own associated costs.

If the other party brings a lawyer, is my position weaker?

At Accredited Mediation Services our accredited mediators are skilled in managing power imbalances and will modify the process to ensure all parties are comfortable raising issues and their interests in the dispute. The mediator will encourage all parties to hear each perspective and to negotiate in good faith.

Can I bring a friend or family member to support me during mediation?

A friend or family member who you trust and who may offer emotional support to you during mediation may be helpful. At Accredited Mediation Services we permit parties to bring a support person other than a professional or specialist, provided the other party agrees. They will be asked to sign a confidentiality or non-disclosure agreement to protect participant privacy. It is not intended that they speak for you. If you need someone to speak for you, this a representative and you should seek a person with specialist qualifications and experience, for example a legal practitioner.

How much does mediation or Parenting Co-ordination services cost?

At Accredited Mediation Services, we offer our mediations in person, by video conferencing and teleconferencing services. Depending on your preference this may alter the fees. Video and teleconferencing mediation services incur a cost effective fee of $450 + GST per hour for up to 4 hours (minimum flat fee $1800.00 + GST for the first 4 hours). The fee is shared between the parties or as agreed between the parties. Time spent after 4 hours will be considered a full day which incurs a further 4 hour fee of $1800 + GST. The total for a full day commencing at 9am will incur a fee of $3600.00. A fee of $475 + GST is billed at 15 minute increments for for time spent preparing for mediation including reading submissions, court, medical or specialist documents, private and confidential intake sessions, mediation, drafting agreements and issuing of section 60I certificates (family mediation). In person mediation will incur additional costs for the venue. All fees invoiced, must be paid by no later than 7 days prior to intake to secure the time and date of the intake session and mediation. If either party cancels within 2 business days of the confirmed mediation date, the full fee will be retained by Accredited Mediation Services. Accredited Mediation Services may from time to time increase or change the conditions of payment. Parties will be notified of the conditions of service and payment prior to securing the date and time. Please contact us if you wish to receive further information regarding our standard Mediation Agreement. Parenting Co-ordination fees are set out and contained within the Helpful Factsheet located on the Accredited Mediation Services website. Simply click on the Parenting Co-ordination tab and download the Factsheet.

What is an intake session?

At Accredited Mediation Services our model includes an intake session with all parties. The mediator will take the time to explain the process and understand each party’s perspective. If required, the mediator will offer non-bias conflict coaching to prepare parties for mediation, particularly where mindsets are fixed.
In some circumstances however, a mediator may assess that mediation is not appropriate. At Accredited Mediation Services the focus is on problem solving, not causing future harm. Our mediators value the importance of intake sessions and the impact it has on mediation. Unfortunately, this is not a practise that all mediators will adopt, but at Accredited Mediation Services it’s all part of our service to ensure that the parties maximise the experience and have the best chance of reaching an agreement.

What if the Mediator determines that mediation is not suitable after an intake session?

In cases where a matter is assessed by an accredited Mediator or a Family Dispute Resolution Practitioner that mediation is not suitable, you will be informed individually and confidentially. If this is the case, you and the other party will not be required to pay for mediation, however the cost of the time for preparation, intake session and issue of a Section 60I certificate will be retained and the balance refunded to the parties. If the matter is a family dispute, our FDRP will issue a Section 60I certificate upon request in accordance with statutory requirements.

How long will it take to resolve my dispute?

Accredited Mediation Services is not a non-for-profit organisation, government funded or a large entity. We appreciate that time is of the essence in most cases and so our processes are fast, cost effective, efficient and secure. Unlike non-for-profit organisations that may take weeks or even months to assist parties, at Accredited Mediation Services your matter may commence within days of all parties agreeing to proceed with our services. Your mediator will contact you directly from the start of the process to assist the parties navigate every step. Generally speaking, mediators are in the hands of the parties and most disputes are settled in one 4-hour session. Parties may also agree to resume for another session where not all issues were able to be resolved in one session. It is our experience that a reasonable time to set aside for mediation sessions is no longer than 4 hours. After this time, parties become tired and discussions are no longer constructive. If the matter is complex and there are many issues to discuss, we recommend that parties consider booking two 4-hour sessions on separate days to begin with.

If we reach an agreement, can the mediator draft the agreement for us?

At Accredited Mediation Services we are able to draft terms that parties have agreed in principle in the words that reflect the parties’ intentions. We do not provide legal services and so agreements will be set out in general terms and we highly recommend that parties seek professional advice about their rights and obligations should they wish to formalise their agreement at a court or tribunal. All parties will be encouraged to contribute to this process. Where parties are legally represented, they may wish to instruct their lawyers to draft the terms of settlement or agreement.

What if the other person does not want to try mediation?

Mediation is voluntary and requires a mutual agreement to participate in mediation. It is our experience at Accredited Mediation Services, that when the process is explained by an independent and impartial person, an invitation to participate is often accepted. If it is not accepted, a mediator cannot enforce participation. We recommend that you consult your legal practitioner for advice about what to do if all parties are not willing to mediate.

I am not in a dispute, but I am trying to plan ahead to avoid one in the future. Is mediation useful for me?

Mediation is not just for parties who are in dispute. At Accredited Mediation Services we specialise in proactive approaches to making agreements such as Financially Binding Agreements also known as a ‘Prenup’; commercial or workplace agreements or relationship mediation for parties who may not wish to obtain counselling but wish to seek assistance with improving communication.

Parents who have separated or are thinking of separating may find themselves requiring a plan to focus on the children’s best interest. This is known as a parenting plan and it’s a plan that does not have to be for separating couples. A set plan of agreed expectations between parents can lead to less arguments, disappointment and most importantly a family unit that is supportive of the children’s needs. These types of mediations require a specialist who is registered with the Attorney-General’s Office as a Family Dispute Resolution Practitioner.

Commercial, workplace enterprise and community agreements often have a dispute resolution clause that sets out an agreement to mediate if something goes wrong or you disagree with the way the agreement was intended to operate. At Accredited Mediation Services we always encourage parties to consider adopting these clauses and to action them sooner rather than later to minimise the risk of the dispute escalating.

You don’t have to wait to be reactive, any commercial, workplace enterprise or community agreement can be negotiated using a facilitated method such as mediation.

Do I have to be in the same room as the person I have a dispute with?

At Accredited Mediation Services our mediators will lead the mediation and facilitate discussions that is recognised as best practice by the National Mediator Standards Board. It is preferred that parties speak directly to each other during joint sessions, however at Accredited Mediation Services we recognise that the dispute may have escalated or the way in which individuals manage conflict may prevent parties speaking directly to each other at first. Talk to the mediator at the confidential intake session about how you would like to proceed. Your mediator cannot make you do or say anything you are not comfortable with.

What is the best way to approach the other party to find out if they will try mediation? Can you help?

Yes, absolutely we can help you there. The first step is to contact us for a confidential and obligation free information summary about the process. The next step is to invite the other party. You can try this yourself by inviting them to visit our website for more information or contact us directly. If you need our help, we will assess if it is appropriate to contact the other party for you and your mediator will extend an invitation by email to all parties to engage in our services.