“information session”.963 Parties may also be ordered to attend information sessions if the court or registrar is of opinion that ”it would be advantageous to do so”.964 These sessions are run by a registrar (a lawyer) and counsellor. They outline the range of options available for resolving disputes and:
“give a more detailed overview of the mediation process. Educational components are also included covering the separation process, communication patterns, children’s reactions to separation in the context of child development, couple suitability for mediation and the range of issues that can be mediated”.965
9.32By way of example of the process in action, at an information session attended in Brisbane in February 1995, members of the court counselling service used flip charts to provide information, and answered questions on the legal and psychological process. There were information packs available on the divorce process.
9.33 After the information session, if the couple request mediation, then a mediator will interview the parties “to ascertain the willingness and ability of each party to participate in the mediation process”.966 The Director of Family Mediation of the Family Court has stated “a reasonable power balance in the relationship between the people seeking an agreement is essential to constructive negotiation”.967 The first mediation session is arranged at a joint pre-mediation interview, which also discusses any information that may need to be shared and sets agendas for the mediation sessions.
9.34Order 25A, rule 5, of the Family Court Rules provides some safeguards by setting out factors to be taken into account in deciding whether a dispute is suitable for mediation:
“(a)the degree of equality (or otherwise) in the bargaining power of the parties;
(b)the risk of child abuse (if any);
(c)the risk of family violence (if any);
(d)the emotional and psychological state of the parties;
963 See Order 25A, rule 3 of the Rules.
964 Order 24 (5)(1).
965 Gibson, “Mediation of Family Disputes in the Family Court of Australia”, Paper at the Fifth National Family Law Conference, Perth, September 1992.
966 Supra at paragraph 11.19. See Order 25A r 4. The court mediator can also direct the parties to attend an interview.
967Gibson, “Mediation of Family Disputes in the Family Court of Australia”, 20 September 1993, at the launch of the service.