Why try mediation?

This page has information about the things you should think about when you are considering mediation. It also looks at when mediation may be compulsory, or not appropriate.

    Case study icon​Case study - Lynette and Fiona 

    Lynette and Fiona are neighbours. Lynette has a large vegetable garden that she keeps caterpillar-free with pest sprays. Fiona does not like Lynette using sprays as they drift into her own garden, which she uses to grow organic vegetables for sale at the local markets. Last week Lynette and Fiona got into an argument, it became heated and soon they were shouting at each over the fence.

    Both Lynette and Fi​ona are very upset but neither of them can see a way to fix the problem. Fiona suggests they try mediation.​

    The pros and cons of mediation


    • In a mediation, the people involved in a dispute decide the end result.
    • Mediation can be more flexible than a court case and deal with a wider range of issues. A court is limited to legal issues. An agreement in mediation could cover things that a court would not usually order. For example, an apology.
    • Mediation is usually quicker and cheaper than having a hearing in a court or tribunal.
    • Mediation gives everyone a chance to understand each other's point of view. Mediation can be a good way to try to keep a good relationship where people need to get along in the future. For example: neighbours, business relationships or employees and employers.
    • What happens in mediation is usually confidential. There are some exceptions to this. For more information, see What happens at mediation?


    • An agreement reached in mediation cannot always be enforced. However, it is sometimes possible to make an agreement reached at mediation enforceable. For more information on this see What happens at mediation?
    • If your case goes to court after mediation, things you raised in mediation could tell the other side about weaknesses in your case. Everything in mediation is confidential, but the other side might still use things you told them at mediation to find evidence they can use in court. (If you are worried about this, you should get legal advice and think carefully about what information and details you will give the other side at mediation. You can also share information with the mediators in a private session that will not be passed to the other parties in a dispute without you agreeing to this).
    • The other party does not have to give you information or documents that you want before mediation. Mediation may not be suitable if you need to get more information from the other party. For example, if you don't yet know the full value of your claim, you should think about whether you need more information and legal advice before reaching agreement at mediation.
    • The mediator cannot force everyone to come to an agreement. If one person is not willing to come to an agreement, mediation may not resolve a problem.
    • Where there is a public interest in the outcome of a case, it may be more appropriate for a court to make the decision.
    • Mediation may not be suitable in some circumstances, for example if one person is worried about the other person being violent or if there is a big power imbalance between the parties that will affect the ability of one side to negotiate on their own behalf.

    Compulsory mediation

    In some situations, you might be expected to try mediation before a court will consider your case.

    For example:

    • You can only apply for a parenting order in a family law court when you have a certificate to say you have tried family dispute resolution or you are covered by one of the exceptions. For links to resources on Family Dispute Resolution, see How to arrange mediation.
    • A Local Court can adjourn (postpone) an Apprehended Personal Violence Order (APVO) application and refer a case to mediation with a Community Justice Centre (CJC). For more information on mediation by CJCs, go to the CJC website.

    If you have been ordered to attend mediation, but you don't think that it is right for your dispute, you should talk to your mediator and get legal advice.

    Case study icon​​​Case study - Stephen and Boris 

    Stephen and Boris work together at a large widget factory. Stephen and Boris got into a heated argument at their work Christmas party. The next da​y Boris made an application for an Apprehended Violence Order. Stephen responded by making his own application for an AVO.

    At the first listed date in the Local Court, the magistrate asked Stephen and Boris​ to try mediation.​​

    ​When not to try mediation

    Mediation may not be right for every case. Even when mediation is meant to be compulsory (like Family Dispute Resolution) there are exceptions. For example, mediation may not be the right choice for you:

    • if there has been violence or threats of violence
    • if there is a big power imbalance between the parties in your dispute
    • when one of the parties involved will not agree to mediation
    • where you need a court order to protect you or to make the other party do something or stop doing something (and mediation cannot achieve this).

    If you are not sure if mediation is the right choice for you, you should get legal advice. ​