Mediation for contact disputes: Information for parents and carers
What is mediation for contact disputes?
Contact between a child and their family must be in the best interests of the child. From time to time, parents or carers may disagree with the contact arrangements for their child or young person.
Mediation is a way to bring different people together to reach agreement on contact without going to court, unless necessary. It can be a really helpful way to keep the focus on the child and have the right people involved in making shared decisions about contact that works best for the child.
How does mediation for contact disputes work?
Legal Aid NSW provides a mediation service to help people resolve disagreements on contact arrangements for children in out-of-home care.
If you can’t agree with your child’s caseworker on suitable contact arrangements, and there has been a significant change in relevant circumstances since the final order was made for your child, your caseworker may discuss the mediation process with you, including the reasons you and other people involved may benefit from being part of a mediation to discuss contact arrangements.
At this stage, your caseworker will suggest that you may want to get independent legal advice. Free advice is available from Legal Aid NSW and Legal Aid care partners.
If you agree, the caseworker will complete a referral and you’ll be contacted by a Legal Aid NSW mediation organiser.
The job of the mediation organiser is to make sure it’s safe and suitable for the mediation to take place. The mediation organiser will contact everyone who needs to be there and ask them about the contact disagreement and what changes they are seeking.
If the mediation is going ahead, the mediation organiser will organise a mediator and ask for a Children’s Legal Representative to be appointed to represent your child. The mediation organiser will also arrange the time and place for conversations with the mediator and for the mediation.
The mediator then decides if the mediation will go ahead.
When the mediation is held, all the people involved in the contact disagreement will meet to discuss the issues and to try and reach agreement. The mediator will make sure everyone is able to speak and be heard.
Everything that’s said at the mediation is confidential. This means that no one is allowed to talk to anyone else who wasn’t at the mediation about what was said.
If an agreement is reached, then it will be typed up and everyone will sign it. This agreement will be lodged with the Children’s Court if required.
Who can attend the mediation?
Before the mediation is held, the mediator will contact you and the other participants to find out what you would like to talk about at the mediation and to explain what you should expect on the day. You may request to bring a legal representative or support person to the mediation – but this must be agreed to by the mediator.
Your child’s legal representative will attend the mediation, and your child or young person may also choose to attend, depending on their age.
Other people who may also attend the mediation include the child’s parents, guardian or carer, someone who would be significantly affected by decisions regarding the child, the child’s caseworker, and a manager from the Department of Family and Community Services.