Legal Services Commission of South Australia’s legal aid service, the Family Dispute Resolution program, helps separating couples reach agreement over the care of their children and the division of assets. The service uses shuttle mediation, keeping parents apart while their lawyers and a chairperson come together to work through the issues.
Since its implementation, the service’s success rate has seen a steady climb, with the latest figures indicating that it is now achieving a settlement in 83 per cent of cases, up from 77 per cent in 2016. The figures are described as being a record for the service.
“Our Family Dispute Resolution program helps parents avoid court proceedings that are usually expensive, lengthy and deeply distressing,” said LSC director Gabrielle Canny.
“It helps couples reach an out-of-court settlement with the assistance of lawyers who facilitate shuttle-style dispute resolution. This is not a round-table mediation process where parents sit down together to discuss their dispute. In fact, parents are kept apart during the process.
“Each parent arrives through a separate entry and goes to a secure room where they discuss the dispute with their lawyer. The lawyers for each parent then meet in another room where they work through the issues with a chairperson who has qualifications in law and in family dispute resolution. Throughout this process, each parent is regularly consulted by their lawyer and the Chairperson.
“This 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.”