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Taking the emotions out of mediation

By November 12, 2021February 23rd, 2024No Comments

Family law mediation is quite commonly a stressful event, due to the high emotions and high stakes usually involved. The best outcomes in mediation will occur when parties are able to remain in control of their emotions in order to communicate effectively and enable a practical resolution to the matter. When people get stuck in reactive emotional states, mediation takes longer and is more costly, and may fail, leading to litigation. We are all human, though and we appreciate it’s very difficult to detach our emotions from a negotiation involving our family’s future.

More and more innovators are developing apps and programs that can help people going through family law disputes to improve the way they communicate and ensure civility between parties. One of the programs we often recommend to our client is Toppako. This is an email filtering program designed to remove any incendiary or inflammatory emotional language, operating both on incoming and outgoing emails. This helps people going through a separation or family law dispute to keep their communications civil and avoid further fanning the flames of conflict.

Now a group of University of Queensland law students have taken the concept and applied it specifically to family law mediation. The aim is to help people get the most out of parenting mediation with a solutions-focused technological tool that helps parties better communicate. The students have designed an AI based tool, PEAM (standing for “Preparing Emotionally Aware Mediation”) that analyses sentiments expressed by individuals. Users input their answers to half a dozen questions under a number of umbrella parenting issues that were identified in consultation with stakeholders. Then, as one of the student designers, Grace Beattie, explains:

“PEAM uses artificial intelligence to read the user’s answers and test them for negative and emotional sentiments. If the wording is too aggressive or negative, the user is prompted to rethink their wording,” Ms Beattie commented, adding that the process repeats until the responses reach an “emotionally neutral point”.

“Once the user finishes working through the function, they will have clear, persuasive and emotionally neutral arguments ready to take into their mediation session. This helps individuals feel prepared and calm – and subsequently, more likely to engage in meaningful outcome resolutions.”

The AI tool informs individuals of their legal duties while focusing on “finding achievable and workable solutions”.

It’s hoped that AI tools like this will be a gamechanger for helping parties go through a family law dispute, including at the preliminary level of attending mediation. Helping people resolve their matter in mediation without inflaming or prolonging conflict, sometimes unwittingly, is hoped will produce more effective mediation resolutions.

Stakeholders surveyed by the students conveyed “the stress and mental health issues resulting from the heavy workload [parties have] and difficulty detaching emotions when problem-solving, especially after experiencing traumatic family breakdowns,” said student designer Leidi Peng.

“We wanted to create something to truly support them and achieve better outcomes.”

The law students designed the tool as part of the #TransformLaw program, an eight-week incubator style situation which helps students prototype their ideas, with the assistance of industry mentors.

Source: Lawyers Weekly

For help with a family law matter or advice on mediation, please contact Canberra family lawyer Cristina Huesch or one of our other experienced solicitors here at Alliance Family Law on (02) 6223 2400.

Please note our blogs are not legal advice. For information on how to obtain the correct legal advice, please contact Alliance Family Law.

You might like to read our tips for making the most of your parenting mediation.


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