Written by Emelia Kwa.
This article was 1st published on the website of PracticeForte Pte Ltd url: www.practiceforte.sg as part of their Project Relocation Initiative. OTP Law Corporation is an affiliate law firm of PracticeForte Advisory and is proud to be a participating law firm of Project relocation.
What is mediation?
Mediation is focused on finding a solution that is agreed upon by all parties involved and which best addresses their concerns. This involves a neutral mediator who helps guide the parties towards reaching such a resolution.
What is the process like?
For mediation to work, both parties must be willing to attend the mediation session. The mediator will then give a brief introduction on the mediation process before deciding whether to continue the session with both parties present, or to hear each party individually.
Joint Session with Both Parties
Where both parties are present, the mediator will have each party explain what their concerns are and what outcome they are hoping to achieve. Parties should not interrupt each other while speaking. The discussion will continue until the mediator is able to help parties find their own appropriate solutions to the parties’ case. Parties will be allowed to discuss their perspectives as well as suggest any changes to be made to the solutions.
Individual Session or Private Caucus
The mediator may speak with only one of the parties in individual session. The mediator’s choice to speak to this party first does not reflect a bias or preference, but is often the party who initiated the proceeding. Once the first party has finished explaining their side of the story, they are requested to leave the room and the second party will then be invited to speak with the mediator.
These individual sessions are strictly confidential and the mediator is not allowed to reveal to the other party what was exchanged unless the mediator was given permission to do so. This is so that parties are comfortable to tell the mediator their underlying concerns. Often, it is in these individual or private sessions that the mediator can help parties find solutions.
If proposals are made by either parties, both parties will then be invited back to a joint session and the mediator will then encourage the parties to share their proposals. Parties will be allowed to discuss their perspectives as well as suggest any changes to be made to the proposals.
Once both parties have come to an agreement, the terms of that agreement are usually recorded in writing and signed by or on behalf of the parties.
Why should I choose mediation?
Litigation may be seen as a good resort because you are leaving the decision to the court which will hand you their judgment. If both parties are prepared to accept the decision, they can confidently say that this issue has been resolved. If not, proceedings can be protracted as parties appeal. This option often involves great costs in the form of time, money and emotional baggage. This is especially so for cases where emotions run high, such as in family disputes.
Mediation provides an avenue for parties to discuss their problems whilst reducing the amount of hostility involved. This is because mediation is not an adversarial process; instead, it involves the mediator helping parties discuss their problems, wants and needs directly with each other. Parties in mediation can also restrict the costs of mediation and avoid overly long suits, as mediation processes are typically concluded more quickly than court cases. Mediation is also a confidential affair, which means that all discussions during the sessions cannot be used against you in court or in arbitration. As a result, parties are likely more willing to explain their positions and perspectives in a mediation setting.
Most importantly, mediation empowers the parties to decide what their ideal solution may be. Thus, it potentially allows finding a solution that is agreeable to all. This is unlike lawsuits, whose solutions are restricted to what the law provides and what the judge decides. Judicial decisions are also final, unless either party has the financial means to appeal.
How popular is mediation? Is it really something I should do?
In the last few years, the Family Justice Courts, Singapore have begun adopting mediation and counselling to assist parties in resolving matrimonial disputes. This is done in recognition of the emotional nature of the disputes as well as how litigation may not be suited to resolve relational aspects of the dispute. Thus, divorcing couples with children below the age of 21 are mandated to first undergo mediation. The Court may also refer parties for mediation (with their consent) if they believe that there is a chance for a more peaceful resolution to the case.
This means that even if you do not choose to go for mediation as a first resort, the Family Court is likely to direct you to attend mediation regardless. Why then would you not want to opt to attempt mediation on your own first?
Why mediate with PracticeForte Mediators?
PracticeForte Advisory consists of a number of affiliate mediators who are well-versed in matrimonial issues. Many of our lawyers have established their careers in the field of family law, making them knowledgeable of how the courts are likely to respond to your case. Moreover, these lawyers are also certified mediators with the Singapore Mediation Centre and other panels. There are at least 5 lawyers cum mediators in the Advisory who are especially trained in cross border family disputes including child abduction issues and matters relating to custody, care and control. With their experiences as lawyers and mediators, they would be better placed to understand and resolve your case.