Conciliation Conference: A Guide to Resolving Family Law Disputes
Family conflicts can be distressing and difficult. However, the Australian legal system provides conciliation conferences as a means of dispute resolution.
This method allows disputing parties to discuss and settle their differences amicably. This guide explains everything you need to know about conciliation conferences.
What is a Conciliation Conference?
In family law disputes, a conciliation conference is a voluntary and confidential process in which an impartial third party (the conciliator) assists parties in discussing issues, generating options, and considering alternatives in an effort to reach an agreement.
This method is typically less formal, less adversarial, and less expensive than a court trial. It is an integral part of the Australian Family Court system and is typically used to resolve disputes involving parenting, child custody, property division, and other family law matters.
What are the Things to Do Before the Conciliation Conference?
Preparation is critical for a successful conciliation conference. Here are several steps to take:
Understand the Process: Familiarize yourself with a conciliation conference’s procedures and potential outcomes. Knowing what to expect can alleviate anxiety and enable better decision-making.
Seek Legal Advice: Consult a family lawyer to understand your rights, responsibilities, and the legal implications of your situation.
Identify Key Issues: List down the primary issues in dispute. Be clear about your concerns, interests, and objectives.
Gather Relevant Documents: Collect all the necessary documents related to your case, such as financial documents for property disputes or evidence about child care for parenting matters.
Consider Possible Solutions: Brainstorm possible solutions to your issues. Being open to compromise can lead to a faster, less contentious resolution.
How Does a Conciliation Conference Work?
The conciliation conference process can be broken down into several steps, each designed to foster open communication, mutual understanding, and problem-solving. Here’s a more detailed look at how a conciliation conference typically works:
Preliminary Stage: This is where initial contact between the conciliator and the parties takes place. The conciliator provides information about the process, determines the willingness of the parties to participate, and sets a date for the conference.
Introduction and Ground Rules: The conciliation conference begins with the conciliator explaining the process, outlining the ground rules to ensure respectful and constructive dialogue, and reaffirming the confidentiality of the process.
Story Telling: Each party is then given an uninterrupted opportunity to share their perspective of the dispute, express their feelings and concerns, and outline their interests and needs. At this stage, each party must listen to the other and begin to understand their viewpoint.
Issue Identification: The conciliator helps the parties to identify and prioritize the issues in dispute. This includes understanding the underlying interests and concerns of each party.
Option Generation: The parties, with the help of the conciliator, brainstorm possible solutions to the identified issues. The conciliator facilitates this discussion to generate as many options as possible without judging or evaluating them.
Evaluation and Negotiation: The parties evaluate the proposed options against their needs and interests. The conciliator may facilitate a negotiation process to help the parties reach a mutually satisfactory agreement.
Agreement: If the parties agree, the conciliator will assist in crafting a detailed agreement document that captures the resolution. This document may then be formalized into a consent order, making it legally binding.
Closure: If an agreement cannot be reached, the conciliator will guide the parties towards the following steps, including referral to court or other forms of dispute resolution.
Follow-up: Sometimes, the conciliator may follow up with the parties after the conference to provide further assistance or support.
What are the Requirements for a Conciliation Conference?
The requirements for a conciliation conference vary based on the nature of the dispute. However, typical requirements include:
Attendance: All parties involved in the dispute must attend the conference. If you have legal representation, your lawyer should follow as well.
Preparation: Parties should come prepared with all necessary documents and clearly understand their desired outcomes.
Willingness to Participate: Parties must be willing to actively participate, communicate their concerns and listen to the other party.
Openness to Compromise: While not strictly required, being open to compromise can significantly facilitate the resolution process.
Who Facilitates a Conciliation Conference?
A conciliation conference is facilitated by a conciliator, typically a court-appointed officer or an independent family dispute resolution practitioner.
The conciliator is an impartial party who does not take sides or make decisions for the parties. Instead, they guide the conversation, encourage open communication, and help the parties explore resolution options.
Why Choose Justice Family Lawyers for Your Conciliation Conference?
Justice Family Lawyers have an established Australian family law system track record. With a deep understanding of conciliation conferences, we’re ready to provide the expert guidance and representation you need.
Our priority is to help you achieve the best possible outcome. Trust us to stand by your side, providing you with the support and expertise you deserve.
Principal of Justice Family Lawyers, Hayder specialises in complex parenting and property family law matters. He is based in Sydney and holds a Bachelor of Law and Bachelor of Communications from UTS.