There are many forms of alternative dispute resolution (ADR) process. For instance, negotiation, mediation, arbitration or conciliation. A round table conference is one such form of ADR that allows the parties to adopt a more collaborative approach.
What is a round table conference?
A round table conference is a private mediation that takes place between the parties to a family law dispute and their legal representatives. It allows parties to facilitate an out of court settlement with the shared aim of resolving their differences.
Discussions and offers that take place during the conference are done on a “without prejudice” basis, which means that it cannot be used in court at a later date, except in very limited circumstances. The discussion can cover both parenting and property matters in family law disputes.
What are the benefits of a round table conference?
- It provides parties greater control and say in the outcome of their matter, and reduces the risk of adverse orders made by a judge in court
- Allows parties to have a frank and open dialogue and voice their grievances so that each other’s point of view can be heard
- It can be more time effective compared to back and forth negotiation letters which in some circumstances can end up being time consuming and expensive
- It avoids the stress, delays and added costs that litigating in court would entail, and is a more cost-effective means to resolve the matter outside of court
- Even if the parties are not able to agree to a settlement, the conference can still be useful in assisting all parties to explain and understand each other’s point of view and their position being adopted, which can then assist in maintaining momentum with the case going forward
It is important to note that a round table conference will not work if either party refuses to listen to the other, or if either party is determined that their outcome is the only one that they will accept.
What happens at a round table conference?
The legal representative for one of the parties will invite the other party to partake in a round table conference. This usually occurs after there has been communication for a period of time and some financial disclosure has been provided.
A conference is then scheduled and arranged with both parties and their representatives. The conference usually takes place at one of the parties’ legal representatives offices. If the parties chooses to, they can sit in separate rooms and have their respective legal representatives carry out the instructions and negotiate back and forth. Alternatively, all parties can sit in one room and carry out discussions.
Sometimes, third parties or experts such as accountants, mediators or family therapists can be in attendance as a helpful addition to the meeting. Who should be involved and how the conference is conducted would vary with each case.
Upon agreement, one of the parties legal representative will then prepare the necessary documents and forms for the parties to sign and lodge with court.