The Counselling Practice and Timothy offer an alternative approach to resolving disputes; by way of mediation - an increasingly used method of alternative dispute resolution (ADR). Timothy is New Zealand Law Awards Mediator of the Year 2017.
Whether you are seeking mediation for family disputes, which include disagreements around family separation, issues focusing on Children, for issues of property and finance, or if you are seeking commercial mediation for where there are disputes in the work place, Timothy and The Counselling Practice may be able to help. Timothy is an accredited panel mediator with Resolution Institute and is a Ministry of Justice Accredited provider of FDR services (please see our separate page for full details of FDR (Family Dispute Resolution).
For information on mediation for commercial organisations, NGO's and other bodies please contact us, or to view a draft Agreement to Mediate for non family disputes please click Here.
Mediation for Family Disputes, also know as Family Mediation
Have you just separated from your partner?
Are you wondering what to do next?
At such a stressful time, what do you do about the house, the children, the assets, the debts?
How can you both move on with your lives when you can't seem to have a civil conversation about the issues that need to be sorted out?
With the help of a qualified family mediator such as Timothy McMichael, you just might be able to sit in the same room and have some meaningful dialogue about what is best for both of you and the children - what will work for all of you? Even if you're unable to sit in the same room at the same time, caucus mediation (where each party is in a different room) may well be the solution for you to reach a set of proposals without having to resort in the first instance to lawyers.
Each separation has its own unique problems; Timothy McMichael, as a fully qualified and accredited mediator with over 15 years experience in the role, may be able to help you manage these difficulties.
|Frequently asked questions|
When thinking about the way forward you may wish to consider the many benefits of family mediation, namely:
- It helps reduce hostility and improves the chances of long term co-operation.
- The mediation process tends to be less confrontational and less antagonistic
- Mediation concentrates on resolving shared problems rather than emphasising entrenched and polarised positions.
- When related to children - it focuses on the interests of children helping you to recognise and meet their needs as parents even when you are no longer a couple.
- Mediation provides the opportunity for you to work in a positive and constructive way.
- Mediation provides an opportunity to assess whether there is any possibility of a co-operative outcome to your dispute.
- Most clients using mediation to reach agreement have lower legal costs.
- You control the pace and content of mediation rather than lawyers, legislation or the Family Court.
- You can improve communication and look to the future, not the past.
- Mediation is less stressful for you and indirectly, for your children.
- The mediation process tends to be quicker than dealing with disputes through Legal Representatives and the Family Court process.
- Mediation usually takes place face to face so you hear the other person’s words and are able to speak directly, rather than through letters and solicitors.
- Even if, for one reason or another, mediation does not in your particular case result in an agreement, there will almost always be benefits from having attended mediation.
- Where mediation is not successful, you can return to your solicitor with either partial or complete financial disclosure. This should save your own solicitor a good deal of work which means savings in time and your costs.
- Mediation has been proven to reduce the emotional stress involved in family conflict and relationship breakdown and can save unnecessary legal costs.
Using mediation helps you to find ways to communicate with each other as separated parents and is a more amicable model than the traditional legal approach.
Family mediation tends to fall into three different categories, children mediation, finance and property mediation and all issues mediation. Explanations on all three types of mediation follow later in this page.
a process by which couples negotiate face to face about the arrangements for their future with the help of a neutral third party – a mediator;
- a safe place to resolve your differences at your own pace;
- an opportunity to recognise the needs of your children as well as yourselves;
- a way of helping you to reach agreements which take account of all your needs, concerns and interests;
- comprehensive – we can look at all the issues together;
- confidential, save for the sharing of financial information and any concerns about child protection;
- suitable not only for married couples and civil union couples, but also if you are a defacto couple.
There are four main principles which underpin successful mediation:
1) Mediation is voluntary. There will be no undue pressure on you to participate in the process, although increasingly Courts expect you to have attempted mediation before starting Court proceedings. In particular, mediators will be cautious about proceeding in cases of abuse or violence or an extreme imbalance of power.
2) The mediators are impartial – mediators will not direct or express a personal opinion. (Although mediators will not give advice, they will often provide substantial information and guidance).
3) Mediation is confidential, unless there are issues of Child Protection, Domestic Violence, or money laundering. Any set of proposals that are mutually acceptable will be written up as a confidential summary which will not be legally binding until ratified by lawyers or the Family Court and cannot be referred to in Family Court proceedings. There must however be comprehensive disclosure of financial information; this can be shared with lawyers or with the Family Court at a later stage.
4) Decision making rests with the participants; that is, you are treated as the experts in dealing with your children, your finances and your future.
- Reconciliation – although the mediation process is designed to help improve communication between mediating parties. Mediation can be used by parties to discuss whether separation or divorce is the appropriate action to take. Information may be provided by the mediator upon how to implement those decisions, and the mediator may suggest relationship counselling or other forms of help and support.
- Counselling – the mediator is an independent, impartial negotiator. In the event of either party requiring counselling the mediator may be able to provide information upon how to contact an appropriate counsellor or counselling service.
- A substitute for legal advice - although the need for lawyers may be substantially reduced. Mediators are able to provide you with a great deal of information however they do not advise the parties to mediation and will suggest that you each take independent legal advice.
- An opportunity to impose views upon the other party to the mediation. The mediator ensures that both parties have the opportunity to air their views and to consider all aspects of the dispute prior to any proposals being reached.
- An opportunity to abuse participants to the mediation process. Various safeguards and checks are in place and these ensure that mediation sessions are carried out in the safest situation possible. A mediator may terminate mediation in the event of abuse of any party or the mediation process.
- Uncertain. Litigation is by its very nature uncertain in its outcome. When mediation succeeds, a final decision is reached there and then. Even when that does not happen the areas of consensus and dispute are clarified.
- Legally binding unless the parties to the mediation wish to enter into a legally binding agreement based upon the proposals arrived at within the mediation process. Usually, the outcome of mediation is then put into a legally binding format through lawyers.
- Unlike the Family Court process where ultimately the judge makes the decisions for you, the parties to the mediation are completely involved in the decision making process. Proposals are arrived at by agreement and are not imposed.
What is day to day care for Children Mediation? What are Children's issues?
This will typically include:
- Where do the children live, and who with? Week about? 5 days and 2 days?
- Contact arrangements with the non-resident parent;
- Holidays and special days (eg birthdays)
- Parenting plans and agreements
- Maintenance- who pays, how much and for how long?
- Extended families
- Step-family/blended family issues
In fact, the list includes whatever you see as an issue to be resolved around your child/children.
Family Mediation can help you to find a successful way forward as separated parents, by:
- Helping you recognise and remember that the breakdown of your relationship is due to differences that you and your partner have. Responsibility for this lies with you and not your child/children.
- Identifying issues you need to address regarding your children. Parents often have more points of agreement than disagreement. Identifying problems early and resolving conflict avoids getting entrenched in protracted disputes. The longer a problem is left, the worse it can become.
- Focusing on the interests of your child/children and helping you to recognise and meet their needs as parents even when you are no longer a couple. Your child/children’s best interest should always be paramount and their own wishes and feelings need to be taken into account bearing in mind the age of the child. Encouraging you to look at ways to keep the child/children informed that you are working together, as parents and that you will do what is best for them.
- Helping you control the pace, identify the issues and solutions. You control the process and you make the decision as to what is best for your child/children.
Direct consultation with children involves a family mediator, who is appropriately trained, talking with a child or children as a result of issues raised in mediation regarding children’s arrangements.
During the course of mediation, it may be suggested by the parents, or a child may ask to be involved in the mediation process. It is important that parents understand the views, needs and desires of their children and involving them in direct consolation may be the appropriate way forward. Children like to be informed and they appreciate having their views and options heard but not to be responsible for the overall decision.
Involving children in mediation can be very complex and a great deal of preparation is needed before a mediator can speak to a child of the family. Different considerations may apply according the age and maturity of the child.
Timothy has received specific training on speaking with Children. Direct consultation with a child means that the child is talking face to face with the mediator separately and in complete confidentiality from anyone else including their parents. In many instances, children wish some of their views to be fed back into the decision-making process and this will be facilitated with their permission.
The child consultation may be undertaken by a separate family mediator (or mediators) from the family mediator dealing with the parents, or by the mediator working with the adult parties. Consultations with children last approximately 45 minutes and siblings must be seen separately with the offer of seeing them together as well. Children should generally be aged 10 years and over but younger children may be seen in exceptional circumstances.
When a couple separate there are often financial and property issues to be discussed and agreed. A mediator can help you do this in mediation.
This may include the family home, mortgage, rental agreements, cars, the contents of the home, building society accounts, bank accounts, savings, pensions , maintenance and child support. Finance also includes all income and expenditure. This list is not exhaustive.
When considering property and finance issues the mediator will help you to;
- Clarify your property details and finances. This may sound strange, however a separating couple may not know all of the details of their own and each other’s property, income and expenditure. This is normally done by asking you and your partner/former partner to complete a financial questionnaire and supply supporting documents. This is exactly the same as you would be asked to do if you went to court.
- Identify areas of agreement and difference. It may be that some things are clear cut and others may be more complex and need further investigation.
- Prioritise the issues.
- Examine options giving consideration to needs and expectations.
- Formulate proposals acceptable to both of you. For instance, is the house to be sold now or at a future stage? How do you divide the proceeds?
- That you fully understand each other’s financial situation and needs prior to any proposals being reached.
- That you receive the correct information from the mediator regarding your options.
- To enable you to receive independent legal advice upon any proposals before they are made into a court order.
Usually it takes between two and four mediation sessions. There may be some time in between sessions as you may be asked to complete questionnaires and obtain supporting documentation. This will dictate the pace forward.
The mediator normally prepares a Memorandum of Understanding; this is a document setting out your situation and proposals and may be shown to a Lawyer to obtain independent legal advice. If you wish, it is possible to have this document implemented as a legally binding agreement which a lawyer can do for you.
If you are experiencing the breakdown of a relationship and need to make decisions about your future finances and arrangements for children, one option is to seek the help of a qualified mediator to help you reach agreement on these important matters.
Before the first mediation session your mediator will talk to you and your partner/former partner about the kind of issues that you have and would like to discuss within mediation. Sometimes these are obvious and sometimes they will be matters that you had not thought about before.
Quite simply, All Issues mediation covers issues of property, finance and matters relating to children. Timothy has undertaken intensive, extensive and on-going training to deal with all of these issues.
This kind of mediation will take longer than a children only mediation or a mediation relating only to finance and property, simply because it seeks to deal with many more issues than the other types of mediation. All issues mediation normally requires between three and five sessions.
The mediator will normally prepare a Memorandum of Understanding, which is a document detailing your proposals, and this can be used by your lawyer to prepare a legally binding agreement.
Considerably less than using a lawyer for litigation!
Time estimates for the three differing types of mediation are explained in the articles above.
Timothy charges a standard rate of $500 inc. GST per mediation session (usually 90 minutes) and charges an hourly rate of $300 + GST for any pre-mediation drafting or detailed advance work (always discussed in advance and only if necessary), and for drafting and memorandum of understandings and open financial summaries.
Typical time estimates for drafting Memorandum of Understandings are Children Issues (1 hour), Property and Finance (2 hours) and All Issues (3 hours). Drafting times for Open Financial Summaries vary between 1 and 3 hours.