Negotiation, mediation, and collaborative law - How to resolve your family law dispute without litigation

Many separated couples do not need to go to court to resolve their parenting, property, and spousal maintenance disputes.

In fact, it is quite common at Umbrella Family Law for our lawyers to use negotiation, mediation, and collaborative law to help their clients resolve their disputes and avoid the stress and expense of litigation.

Below, we explain what negotiation, mediation, and collaborative law are and how they might help you.


Generally, negotiation is the first step in any family law dispute.

It is a way for you to tell your former partner what your concerns are and attempt to reach a mutual agreement.

Negotiation can be done in person (this is called a round table conference). However, it is much more common in family law matters for your lawyer or ex to send you a letter or email and vice versa.

If you are successful in resolving your dispute through negotiation, you can save yourself the expense, heartache and time associated with court proceedings.



At mediation, a neutral third party (mediator) will help you and your former partner to discuss and resolve any issues you have around parenting, property division and spousal maintenance.

However, the mediator has no power over any decisions that you make and cannot give legal advice.

No. It is an entirely voluntary process.

However – prior to making an application in the Family Court of Australia for parenting orders – you and your former partner must undertake mediation. There are exceptions to this rule though.

  • It is informal and less expensive than attending court.
  • There is a greater focus on what is important to both you and your former partner.
  • You and your former partner will have more control and satisfaction over the outcome you receive. Whereas, in legal proceedings, you cannot control the judge’s decisions. Chances are you will not be completely satisfied either.
  • It is a confidential process. Anything said by you in mediation cannot be used against you in litigation unless in exceptional circumstances.

If you still wish to mediate in these circumstances, you may consider a shuttle mediation which enables you to feel safe.

In a shuttle mediation, you and your former partner will sit in separate rooms with your respective lawyers. The mediator will move between the rooms to convey everyone’s views and offers.

Collaborative law

In this process, you, your former partner, and your respective lawyers cooperate to resolve your family law matter and promise not to resort to litigation.

All discussions occur at a series of “four-way” face-to-face meetings with you, your former partner, and your respective lawyers present. Financial experts, child experts or trained counsellors may also be involved in the process, if necessary.

The common goal that everyone has is to create the best possible solution for you, your former partner, and your children in a non-confrontational way.

A mediator is not able to provide legal advice. In the collaborative law process, you can hear what advice your former partner is given.

  • You can be open and honest.
  • The focus of the process is your children and what they need.
  • You have the expertise and support of lawyers and other professionals.
  • You will save the time and expense of legal proceedings.
  • Everyone is on the “same team”.
  • Discussions are confidential.
  • You can improve your communication with your former partner as you will not be in a hostile environment.
  • Faster outcome.

If you are unsure of which of the above is suitable to you, please get in touch with us.

All our lawyers are collaboratively trained and experienced in conducting negotiation and mediation.

We can use our experience to assess which option is right for you and talk you through any questions that you might have.