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COVID-19 Telephone Mediation Scheme - Information Sheet

Family Dispute Resolution
COVID-19 Telephone Mediation Scheme

What is the COVID-19 Telephone Mediation Scheme?

The restrictions due to the COVID-19 pandemic are having a significant impact on parenting arrangements. Legal Aid NSW has responded by developing a streamlined mediation process to help parents decide on alternative arrangements that are in the best interests of their children (“the Scheme”). The Scheme focuses on working towards practical solutions. It is not intended to re-open negotiation about parenting matters generally. The existing Legal Aid FDR options will continue for this purpose.

Are there eligibility policies?

Yes, the CEO has approved eligibility policies for The Scheme. A more generous ERA Means Test captures applicants who may otherwise not be eligible for legal aid. The ERA Merit Test looks at whether mediation will assist in resolving the dispute and the applicant’s commitment to resolving the dispute.

How is it funded?

The Scheme will be funded as an Early Resolution Assistance (ERA) service which operates differently to a grant of aid, for example, there is no right of appeal to the Legal Aid Review Committee. It will have a more streamlined application and administration processes than those which apply to applications for grants of aid. If a client has an existing grant of aid for court proceedings, it will be administered separately to the funding for the Scheme.

How will clients access the Scheme?

Intake into the mediation process for the Scheme will be managed primarily through the Family Law inhouse Practice with clients calling LawAccess as the first point of contact. It is anticipated that Family Law Panel Practitioners may be involved in representing clients where there is an existing relationship with that client.

Is COVID-19 Mediation only for parenting matters?

Yes. Clients will be able to access the existing options for mediating property matters by telephone, including the Commonwealth Funded Property Mediation Pilot.

What happens after a person is approved to take part in Scheme?

Approved matters are referred to the Family Dispute Resolution (FDR) service and allocated to  specialised mediation organisers. They will contact lawyers to schedule mediation and obtain completed checklists and confidentiality forms.  The Scheme uses a streamlined process that aims to support parents in resolving their issues as soon as possible.

What if the other party doesn’t agree to take part?

If mediation cannot be arranged because the second party doesn’t respond, disengages or refuses to participate in mediation, the first party may apply for legal aid funding for court proceedings subject to the published eligibility policies for parenting matters.

What happens if the dispute does not settle at mediation?

Although the Scheme targets matters that are likely to be resolved at mediation, the issues may give rise to complexities that require determination by the court. The mediator will prepare a report after the mediation which includes recommendations for further funding.  The parties will need to apply for a grant of legal aid and the published eligibility policies for property matters will apply. This may mean parties who are eligible for funding for mediation under the Scheme may not qualify for a grant of legal aid.