Child Access: Mediation now compulsory!
A Durban judge recently rejected an urgent application by a father for access to his child, because the applicant had not first requested the mother to attend mediation, as required by the Children’s Act. He struck the case from the roll. The parties must now go to mediation. If the mother refuses, she may be ordered to pay the legal costs.
This is an exciting development. The South African government has shown no political will to make mediation compulsory, despite this method of dispute resolution being required or recommended in 50 different statutes. And in spite of the fact that our government proudly boasts of its involvement in international mediation.
Mediation is growing, organically. I am one of the few busy mediators in the greater Durban area – not merely involved in family issues, but in business relationship disputes, too (contracts, partnerships, joint ventures, inter-departmental spats and other relationship disputes).
Of course, mediation gets very little mention in the media – one of its major benefits, is that it is confidential. Conducted behind closed doors, mediation enables the full and frank airing of disputes without the risk of becoming the focus of rumours and adverse public disclosure in newspapers and social media. Nevertheless, we need the public to know of the success of this dispute resolution process, so they can demand it from their litigation-bound lawyers.
We have been awaiting further involvement by the courts, to really give mediation the boost that it needs. Our thanks to those judicial officers who recognise its value, especially in Family Law.