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  • Temara Willis

Preparing for family mediation. The five P's

The five P's - proper planning prevents poor performance.


So why engage in family mediation? Well, simply, it is your chance to work through and resolve your family matters post-separation without spending the additional costs by involving the court or using a lawyer. The mediator will try and help you find common ground to work together to reach an agreement that meets your family's best interests.


However, the thought of mediation can be nerve-racking for many reasons, having to see your ex-partner, dealing with issues that make you uncomfortable, the formality or just the unknown. What helps is making sure you are prepared. Easily said, but how do you best prepare?


Remember the five P's - proper planning prevents poor performance.


First, ask questions! You will attend a pre-mediation session with your mediator. This is where you have the chance to ask questions, whatever questions that you might have. Asking questions will allow you to ensure that all your concerns are talked through, reducing your uncertainty about the process. After the session, we forward a 'preparing for mediation' worksheet that you will work through at your own pace that scopes out what you need to think about before attending your joint session.


Some of the things you should contemplate before mediation (outside of the outcome you would like) could be:

  • If it is a parenting matter, what is in the children's best interest, and how can you ensure you keep this at the forefront of your mind?

  • What are the issues that you believe need to be resolved?

  • What do you think the other person wants to be resolved?

  • What are your legal rights? What has your lawyer advise you?

  • How do you plan to effectively manage your emotions during mediation?

  • What will you do if your ex-partner brings up a matter that you know will upset you?

  • Do you want someone to attend mediation with you? And if so, what support do you want them to provide you?

  • What paperwork do you think you might want to refer to during mediation?

  • How will you keep an open mind?

Once you have had a chance to think about these things and outlined what you both want, then you need to work through how you might respond to these matters.


If you have concerns about what your ex-partner might want, then think about some solutions or actions that you would like to table to counteract these concerns. You need to be solution-focused. How can you help solve the problem so you can ensure the best outcome for the family? For example, if you have concerns that your ex-partner might have a drinking problem or drinks too much and are concerned about their ability to provide care for the children when drinking, you need to express this concern as it is legitimate. However, instead of making a statement like "you can't have the children overnight because you drink", you could say that you are worried about the children's safety when they are drinking, and want to understand how the other parent can ensure that the children's safety needs are being met. If they cannot provide you with a response, you might want to table suggestions from your perspective that might make you feel more comfortable. For example, could you suggest a commitment that the parents won't drink while the children are in their care? Or you could ask the parent to take you through the strategies they plan to put in place to address this issue?


Preparing solutions or constructive responses, not restrictions before mediation, will make the joint session more productive. Take your time to think about answers to your concerns and respond to the issues that you believe your ex-partner might bring up.


Preparation is key. Think about what would be best for the family, what that looks like, and how you can help make that your reality.


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