This is the difference between a mediator and a lawyer

Mediation SydneyMum

Let’s talk Mediation

First Things First…let’s make it clear…

The first thing people often want to understand is what is the difference between a family lawyer and a family mediator or family dispute resolution practitioner? In the most simple of terms, a family lawyer provides specialised personal legal advice to a client. They will recommend and represent their client in any proceedings or in Court and provide that client with an idea of possible outcomes if the matter ends up before a Judge. 

Whereas a family mediator never represents one client. They work for the family; they are impartial and neutral and focus on the best interests of the children. As mediators, our main goal is to help the two parents or parties to stay in control of their decisions about parenting or finances and help them work toward a negotiated agreement they can both live with.

What comes next?

When clients book in for their first session or are referred to us by a family lawyer or therapist, one of their first questions is what to bring or how can they prepare for this first session with a mediator.

My answer is always no preparation is necessary, unless you have existing Consent or Court Orders, or there is an AVO in place that we need to review. Our clients have all the answers and information so it is our job to ask the right questions and steer the discussion in the right direction in the time we have available to get what we need.

The first meeting

The first meeting or pre-mediation session is a chance to hear everything from the client’s perspective – some topics include the history of the relationship, the reasons for the breakdown, what communication was like in the past and how it is now post-separation. We also ask about any family and emotional support they have in place, the details of children in the family and how they are coping. Ultimately the meeting is to explore why the client has chosen to mediate and what they would like to achieve from this process.

It is also a time for clients to make sure they feel comfortable with us. They are placing immense trust in our ability to help them navigate their way through what is usually a challenging time or situation. We also help prepare clients for the anticipated joint session of mediation with their ex-partner. What it will be like and what they need to do in the lead up to make sure they are ready to mediate and start discussing and agreeing on a parenting plan and/or financial settlement.

Other things to consider

Apart from parenting plans and financial settlements, we also see clients who are trying to resolve other issues related to children:

  1. Relocation – if someone wishes to move with the children either interstate or overseas; or arrangements for how one parent will keep up a relationship with the children if that parent is moving away without the children.
  2. Schooling – when parents don’t agree on schooling, either place or type, including public versus private school debate.
  3. Co-parenting relationship – it may simply be where there is a break down in the co-parenting relationship and communication, sometimes around the time when parents re-partner or other issues have remained unresolved.


If you or someone you know is going through a separation or divorce, encourage them to consider mediation and alternative dispute resolution to help them reach agreements and stay in control of their family’s future:

Author: Gloria Hawke

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