1K Relationship breakdown and re-partnering
LAFDR and LACADFR: creative legally assisted mediation
Legally Assisted FDR (LAFDR) has been operating weekly at Broadmeadows Family Relationship Centre for four years, and culturally appropriate LAFDR,Legally Assisted and Culturally Appropriate Family Dispute Resolution (LACAFDR) for one year. Both clients receive legal support from Community Centre solicitors during joint or shuttle mediations.
It’s a paradox. Philosophically, mediation and the legal process are contradictory. Mediators are civil and impartial, and focus on consensus, autonomy and mutual empowerment. Lawyers are adversarial and partisan, and focus on agreements at the expense of the other party. Yet, carefully triaged, LAFDR can deliver agreements with clients who are inflexible, vindictive or vulnerable in ways that FDR cannot.
Navigating these contradictions can be tricky, but with lawyers who understand and respect the mediation process, it is a powerful way to reach durable agreements in the best interests of children. It also deters and provides more useful options for clients who, mostly out of ignorance, wish to wait for ‘justice’ to prevail in court. Lawyers are highly effective at disillusioning clients about their expectations for likely outcomes in Family Court, and in supporting and empowering clients who are affected by family violence.
LACAFDR is LAFDR with the addition of resourcing for culturally and linguistically diverse (CALD) clients, and is particularly effective for clients from CALD backgrounds, including recently arrived families with very limited knowledge of family law in Australia and those with language barriers. In this approach, the involvement of cultural advisors with in-depth knowledge of community traditions as well as religious and social values and practices of respective clients in the various stages of the Dispute Resolution process, render the process more effective and further enhance each client’s choices and opportunities.
Michael Atkinson has been a mediator for 10 years. Before that, he was a musician and composer in film and TV.
Khairy Majeed is a senior cultural advisor. He is also a mediator speaking fluent Arabic. He migrated from Iraq 30 years ago.