QUT has launched the first university-run family mediation service in Australia to help separating couples make sound decisions for their children.
The new QUT Family Mediation Service, being run in Brisbane by QUT Health Clinics, offers an affordable solution to the costly court battles and parental quarrels where the child’s best interests often get forgotten in the fight.
QUT Family Dispute Resolution Practitioner Jennifer Felton said developing a parenting plan with the help of a qualified mediator could remove “parent against parent” conflict and focus on providing a positive future for the child.
“Mediation and family dispute resolution is really about helping parents to make good choices for what is best for their child,” Ms Felton said.
“This service is about trying to reduce the conflict and have parents stay in their child’s life and stay in a way where it doesn’t cause a negative impact on the child or the parents.”
Ms Felton said the Family Law Act required in most cases, parents to attempt to resolve their differences through mediation before making an application to the court.
“Mediation and family dispute resolution is increasingly used in Australia, and offers a much more beneficial way of parents making decisions than using the legal system to argue against each other,” she said.
“Going through the Family Court process is extremely expensive, not only financially but also emotionally and relationally. Court costs can quickly run into the tens of thousands of dollars, and as importantly, the relationship between the parents is usually destroyed.
“Family Mediation, on the other hand, can be done in a quick timeframe, at a more affordable cost, and allows people to move on with their lives and give stability to their child.
“It is about having an objective and neutral person such as a Family Dispute Resolution Practitioner sit down with parents and help them to make decisions for their child and to do that in a very safe and controlled environment, so that whatever is left of the relationship isn’t damaged by a stressful, adversarial court process.”
Ms Felton said research had shown the effect of a drawn out separation and entrenched conflict could have a negative impact on the child, putting them at risk of developing difficulties into the future.
“With an agreed parenting plan the child can see that their parents can work together, and this is beneficial for all involved,” Ms Felton said.
“Parents need to go on having a working relationship into the future and to be able to continue to make some important decisions about their child in their roles as parents even though they stop being partners together.
“Mediation is about creating agreements where the child is the focus but agreements that the parents own and can actually carry out.”
QUT’s Family Mediation Service is supervised by a qualified Registered Family Dispute Resolution Practitioner and assists in the training of nationally accredited mediators to become Family Dispute Resolution Practitioners.
The service is available for separated parents. It is suitable for parents who have already begun court action. The child does not attend mediation and parents are not required to engage lawyers, although lawyers may attend with the agreement of the parents.
(Source: Queensland University of Technology)