Pre-mediation conferences are conducted in strictest confidence.  Nothing which is said to Rachel in the pre-mediation conference will be repeated to the other party, unless Rachel is specifically requested to convey a particular piece of information.

It is important in this private session for the participants to be open with their mediator.  The open discussion of interests with the mediator helps the mediator understand what is important to each party and helps generate fruitful exploration of issues and interests.  It is quite normal for participants to experience a wide range of emotions in family law matters; some of these can be helpful to negotiations and some can be a hindrance.

Mediations have more chance of success if everyone is feeling as comfortable as possible with the process.  For some people this will be the first time that they have been in the same room together since separation and it can be confronting.  The pre-mediation intake session helps the mediator discuss these issues with the client as they will invariably have an influence on the way the mediation process and approach to the conference.

FAQ:  Can you conduct a pre-mediation without a lawyer attending?

A pre-mediation meeting is an important part of the process and it is far preferable for clients to attend the pre-mediation with lawyers.

If you want Rachel to see your client without you being present, she will do so.  But Rachel advises against it, for reasons expanded upon below.

Parties are often stressed/anxious when meeting the chair for the first time.  Going to a pre-mediation meeting alone can be a bit daunting for some.

Discussions at a pre-mediation conference usually include the following:

  • The usual process of the mediation: including time factors (start time, finish times, lunch and dietary requirements) consideration of any risk issues, whether shuttle conferencing is required, use of technology, support person(s), external advisors on hand etc.
  • The background to the matter: Rachel usually takes the opportunity to ascertain from the parties directly what are the important issues to them and what they wish to discuss and focus on during the mediation.
  • The ‘rules’ for mediation:  the nature of a without prejudice conference; additional confidentiality in private sessions (noting that the pre-mediation is a private session.  Anything discussed with the mediator in a private session is strictly confidential and will not be disclosed to the other party unless the party himself or herself decides to do so).
  • Every client is set ‘homework’, including to think carefully about, and prepare, an opening statement.  The opening statement is an important part of the day (some say the most important).

Clients inevitably seek guidance and advice during a pre-mediation appointment. Rachel cannot give either party advice as to their rights/entitlements/merits of the case.  It is not appropriate for her to advise as to the specifics of the opening statement.  

This is where parties need guidance from their lawyers, not their mediator.