Hybrid Mediation – offering more flexibility and a streamlined process for family matters

There are various alternative dispute resolution methods available to help people separate constructively, the most widely known being mediation.  Whilst mediation can be extremely effective, it is not always the only solution.  A new form of Family Mediation has been developed to try to assist more couples in finding solutions that will benefit them and their families moving forward.  So what exactly is Hybrid Mediation and how can it help you?

The process

Hybrid Mediation is based on a Caucus model, mirroring largely what already happens in Civil Law cases.  The principle is about allowing people to meet in a group or subgroup to make decisions.  The group in a Hybrid Mediation scenario can incorporate the parties, their legal representatives, the Mediator and potentially other professionals it is agreed can attend, such as financial advisers.  Usually, discussions will be had between the mediator and the legal representatives of each party beforehand to identify the issues and decide what steps need to be taken to enable any meeting to be productive.  For example, in a financial case this may mean agreements being reached some time prior to any meeting for how each person is going to complete financial disclosure and trying to identify issues that may need to be looked at.  This means that when the meetings do take place they tend to be more streamlined and effective.

Usually, there would be initial individual meetings between the mediator and the parties to discuss the options that are available to them. There may then be initial meetings with each party and their lawyer, with a separate meeting then taking place just with the lawyers.  This allows agendas to be set and clarity of timings discussed.  The mediations themselves could either be a few hours long, as per the standard mediation model, or in blocks of half or full days.

The Hybrid Meeting

The beauty of the hybrid process is that you are able to conduct traditional mediation with flexibility, enabling the process to be adapted to meet the individual needs of each set of clients.  You may start a Hybrid Mediation session all together in one room, whether in person or virtually, but can then separate out into separate rooms, either on your own or with the support of your lawyer.  The mediator can go between the rooms with a view to aiding the discussions between you.  Support is maintained throughout the process by the people that you take with you to the meetings, ensuring that the participants are not alone and are able to take legal advice as and when needed.  This can allow for a more swifter process to resolution, with final documents being able to be drafted if needed.

Is it confidential?

Unlike traditional mediation, the mediator is able to have confidential discussions with each person and their team and will only relay to the other person what they are permitted to.  This ensures that you are able to make suggestions, seek guidance and have discussions without fear that it will automatically be relayed to the other side.  All discussions within the process remain without prejudice.  This would only change if both sides agreed to have any proposals dealt with on an open basis and any agreement confirmed.

What happens at the end of the process?

If matters are settled and both parties agree to have matters dealt with on an open basis, then the solicitors present are able to finalise any paperwork that may be required.  In the event that matters do not settle, further options can be looked into as to how to move the situation forward.

What are the costs involved?

The costs of the mediator will vary but are usually shared between the parties.  The process of the mediation itself can be more cost effective, quicker and help to maintain relationships.  It allows for a more streamlined process, with the lawyers being able to provide advice along the way.

What type of disputes can be mediated?

Any family matters are capable of being dealt with by Hybrid Mediation, including finances, children and co-habitation.  Hybrid Mediation is about flexibility of process, meaning that it can be adapted to allow most matters to be able to benefit, including Family Law Act cases and other matters that may not be suitable for the standard mediation process.

If you want to find out more about Hybrid Mediation or alternative dispute resolution in family law contact the Excello Family Law team now.

Disclaimer: Nothing in the Legal Insights section and this blog is intended to provide legal or other professional advice and, if readers are interested, they should consider taking separate legal or other professional advice accordingly.