I’ve received an invitation to attend mediation – what does that mean?
If you have received an invitation to attend mediation out of the blue you may be wondering what that means and why in the world you have received it. Don’t stress – you are not alone. Sometimes a party wants to talk about issues that they are facing and may believe that they have tried to raise it and it hasn’t been heard, or they feel the best way to do it is through a third party. Sometimes this can be perceived as an attack, sometimes it can feel like you are on a never ending merry-go-round.
As a mediator, we can be engaged by one party and asked to send an invitation out. Unfortunately, invitations for mediation are not always warmly received, especially if they come out of the blue. If this is where you find yourself the first thing you can do is contact the mediator and see if you can find out more information. The invitation might not tell you what the mediation is about (it should, but we all know that just because is should doesn’t mean it does). Once you have had a chat to the mediator you may be in a better position to say yes or no to the invitation.
Attending mediation is voluntary. You don’t have to do it; but if you are unsure whether to accept, or you think you will decline, you should first speak to a lawyer. This way you will be able to make a fully informed decision, knowing what the possible consequences are. In Family Law matters in Australia, if a party refuses to participate in mediation, the mediator can issue a certificate (known as a s60I certificate) to the other party to enable them to commence court proceedings. There are also possibly cost consequences in the event that a party refuses or does not make a genuine attempt to resolve the dispute at the mediation.
The other important thing to remember is just because the other party has requested the mediation it does not automatically mean that it will proceed. As a Family Dispute Resolution Practitioner, we are required to conduct an assessment on whether the matter is suitable to proceed to mediation. This can only be done after an intake interview. I often have invitees tell me that there is a domestic violence order in place and therefore the mediation can’t take place. That is not always the case. In most circumstances mediation will be able to be conducted in a safe manner however this is something that will always be considered following the intake interviews. If you hold significant concerns you should always raise this with the mediator during your intake interview.
If you would like to find out more information about the steps involved with mediation you can download our free mediation process document here.