The service includes a so-called “shuttle mediation” program, which uses a purpose-built facility in Adelaide that keeps the warring parties physically separated while their lawyers convey their concerns to an independent arbiter in a room that sits between them.
Figures in the Legal Services Commission of South Australia’s annual report revealed demand for the service had increased by 22 per cent in the past year, and its success rate had climbed to 79 per cent.
Commission director Gabrielle Canny said the ability to keep the clients physically separated throughout the mediation process was a big advantage in some cases.
“We think the combination of being able to do a traditional mediation in family dispute resolution and then this shuttle mediation has led to the success rate that we’re seeing,” Ms Canny said.
“We find that the parties that have more complex issues, for example there might be a power imbalance or there might be sensitive issues, very much people who have been exposed to the trauma of family breakdown and are not coping well, they might prefer to do a mediation through … shuttle mediation.”
Ms Canny said the ability to prevent face-to-face contact between the parties helped to reduce the emotional and distressing impact of the process.
“The individuals, the mother and the father, are not having to face the other person and perhaps emotionally jeopardise the result, but they’re able to have it logically put by the lawyer and the chairperson would work through to try to get the best result for the children.”
She said the mediation process helped resolve legal disputes such as child custody arrangements faster than the often lengthy and emotionally taxing traditional court proceedings.
“It is really a service that should continue to grow because it helps separating parents avoid court proceedings, court proceedings and family law are expensive, lengthy and deeply distressing so it’s good for families and good for our community.
“The shuttle-style approach can help many couples reach a solution relatively quickly, rather than having to wait months or years for the matter to be dealt with in court.”
Ms Canny said the service would not be suitable for everyone and each couple’s circumstances were carefully assessed before any dispute resolution process would take place.
She said a free Legal Services Commission Advice line 1300 366 424 was available to all South Australians.
Read More: ABC News
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