operated by the Legal Aid Commission of New South Wales at the Parramatta registry of the Family Court, where there is co-mediation with a family lawyer mediator and social scientist mediator:
“Legal representatives are an integral part of the mediation conference. Anecdotal evidence points to the significant contribution played by legal representatives in assisting the parties to achieve settlement”.972
9.40This is borne out by a New South Wales study, referred to by Altobelli, which found that 71% of cases with active lawyer participation settled. Unfortunately, those cases which do not settle take up a disproportionate amount of court time, resulting in delays of 12 to 24 months before a hearing in the case of the Sydney registry.973
Mediation pilot project evaluation (1994)
9.41In 1992 a pilot mediation project (the Family Court Mediation Service) was established in Melbourne to provide comprehensive mediation services in addition to the existing conciliation services. The service was “comprehensive” in that any issue in dispute could be made the subject of mediation. Referrals under the project were voluntary. In 1994, the success of the pilot project was assessed in a report issued by the Family Court of Australia Research and Evaluation Unit.974
9.42The fact that the pilot project provided a comprehensive service allowed issues relating to both children and property to be mediated at the same time. The evaluation report found that there was a higher proportion of cases resolved where more than one issue was brought to mediation. Eighty-eight per cent of multiple issue disputes reached agreement, compared to 73% for single issue disputes. Only a small number of cases were mediated in which only issues relating to children were considered.
Reasons for choosing mediation
9.43The evaluation report found that a critical factor which persuaded parties to resort to mediation was a desire to avoid court proceedings and their associated costs. Sixty-eight per cent chose mediation to avoid court costs and the adversarial nature of litigation, though 75% were prepared to go to court if mediation did not settle the matter.975
972 Altobelli, “Mediation in family law”, Australian Family Lawyer.
973 Altobelli, Talk on “Australian Mediation” to the Mediation Group, Hong Kong on 8th August 1994.
974 Bordow and Gibson, Evaluation of the Family Court Mediation Service, Family Court of Australia Research and Evaluation Unit, Research Report No.12, (March 1994).
975 Supra at 5.