Family Law & Alternative Dispute Resolution Options

Family Law Mediation

Most separated couples can resolve their disputes without going to Court.

However, some need the assistance of an independent person, such as a mediator to facilitate negotiations for settlement of children, property, child support or other family issues. A mediator helps both parties to openly discuss their needs and interests and creates an environment to generate creative solutions.

It is important that you get legal advice before entering mediation.

Adelta Legal offers Nationally Accredited (NMAS) mediators and an accredited Family Dispute Resolution Practitioner (FDRP), all family lawyers can issue certificates if necessary, for court processes.

Most mediation offered by mediation services are facilitative mediation processes only.

At Adelta Legal we offer lawyer mediators who assist you to facilitate the process impartially.

As mediators we cannot provide legal advice, but we can provide both parties with an indication of possible court outcomes to assist. This process is called evaluative mediation.

This can be conducted at our office or at your lawyer’s premises.

A mediation has two distinct steps;

If you reach an agreement in mediation, the mediator can record the terms of your agreement in a Mediated Parenting Plan or Property Agreement. This is a record of the parties’ agreement but is not legally binding. The agreement should be developed into a Court Order after the conclusion of the mediation by your lawyer.

If it is deemed inappropriate for parties to attend mediation our qualified Family Dispute Practitioner or the mediator may issue a certificate telling the court the mediation was not appropriate. In some circumstances of family violence or when the matter is urgent the court may waive the requirement for mediation all together.

Adelta is happy to discuss whether mediation is appropriate and what method may be the best in your situation.

Collaborative Law or Roundtable Negotiations

Collaborative law is a process which allows parties to settle disputes without resorting to protracted litigation. All parties, including the party’s legal representatives, commit to resolving the matter in a roundtable negotiation format.

This process focuses on the needs and desires of you and your family unit and aims to work as a team to determine the best outcome for all parties.

In the collaborative process both parties will be represented by an experienced and collaboratively trained family lawyer and an experienced team of trained interdisciplinary professionals. A financial neutral and relationships consultant will usually also be engaged. This team will then work with you, to guide an appropriate outcome through several round table meetings.

This methodology is beneficial for parties who seek to continue a civil relationship post separation particularly if there are children involved or a working relationship needs to be maintained for a period such as within family businesses.

The traditional court litigation approach can be slow, expensive, and destructive of an ongoing relationship. The collaborative approach aims to be a smoother and more amicable methodology controlled by the parties and more creative in the outcomes possible.

Collaborative law is common practice in the United States and parts of Europe. In Australia collaborative law is still developing but gathering popularity as clients are seeing the results of a process that provides a real and legally sound outcome without destroying the parties ongoing relationships.

Feel free to contact one of our trained collaborative lawyers today to discuss whether this process is appropriate for your matter.


Arbitration is a process in which parties prepare documents and evidence and present arguments to an arbitrator who makes a determination to resolve part or all of the family law financial dispute.

The main difference between an arbitration and mediation is that in mediation parties seek to reach their own agreement with the assistance of a mediator. Arbitration is like a court process where the arbitrator will make a decision and provide an award, based on the party’s applications. Parties will be bound to that decision. There is a limited recourse to the court on appeal.

Currently, arbitration is limited to financial matters such as property settlement, spousal maintenance, and financial agreements. Children’s matters such as who children live with and who they spend time with, are not matters that can be dealt with in an arbitration.

The benefits of arbitration are that individuals control the process and timeline for a decision. The process can be more flexible and cost-effective. The parties are provided with a binding and confidential result in a timely manner.

We have offices in the city and at Tea Tree Gully for the convenience of clients.   In addition, for the elderly or infirm, visits can be made to clients at home or in hospital.

Call us on 08 8415 5000 or send an email to make an appointment.

Key people for Family Law & Alternative Dispute Resolution Options:

Ian Charman

Accredited Family Law Specialist

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Accredited Family Law Specialist


Ian was admitted to practice in 1987 and brings a wealth of experience to Adelta Legal. He joined Adelta Legal in October 2018 after several different practices in the Adelaide city and at Gawler. Ian spent 18 years practising in his own practice before merging with Adelta Legal to expand the Family Law Section. He is one of a few Accredited Specialists in Family Law practising in South Australia. He is also a qualified Independent Children’s Lawyer and regularly appointed to represent the best interests of children in complex family law matters.

Ian is a skilled and persuasive advocate appearing regularly in the Federal Circuit and Family Courts.

In the past, Ian has been a member of the Law Society’s Family Law Committee. He has also written  and presented papers for the further legal education of other lawyers in the area of Family Law. He has been a member of the Family Law Section of the Law Council of Australia and been a member of a discussion panel to the National Conference of Independent Children’s Lawyers.

Ian’s approach to the practice of family law is to provide appropriate advice to his clients as soon as possible to try to ensure the best result as quickly and cost-effectively as possible.

Ian practices in matters involving disputes between parents and care givers over children, property settlements and spousal maintenance.

Ian’s experience and expertise enables him to quickly get to the core of most disputes and to avoid being bogged down in a paper war. He tries at all times to keep the focus upon the client’s bottom line and to maintain a sensible, common sense approach to the practice of the law.

Contact Ian Charman

Catherine Hokin

Senior Associate

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Senior Associate

LL.B, BA (Jur), BA (Hons)

Catherine has more than 25 years of experience practising in family law and civil litigation.

Catherine was admitted in 1995 having gained a Bachelor of Arts (Jurisprudence) with Honours in Politics and a Law Degree with Honours at the Adelaide University.

Catherine joined the firm when Lempriere Abbott McLeod merged with Adelta Legal in 2021.

Along with expertise in all areas of family law, Catherine has substantial experience in general civil litigation including property matters and professional negligence.

Catherine is committed to providing support and a high standard of professional service to clients in the following areas:

  • family law
  • property settlement
  • divorce
  • de facto matters
  • financial agreements
  • spousal maintenance
  • child support
  • surrogacy
  • adoption.

Catherine is a member of the Family Law Section of the Law Council of Australia and the Australian Association of Collaborative Professionals.

Contact Catherine Hokin

Catherine Leis

Senior Associate

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Senior Associate

B.A., LL.B. (Hons)

Catherine has over 20 years of experience and expertise in all aspects of family law.  She has a Bachelor of Arts and Bachelor of Laws (Hons) from Adelaide University.

Catherine provides  pragmatic and empathetic advice to individuals during their relationship, after a separation and if they are having difficulties with parenting arrangements.

Being raised on the Eyre Peninsula in South Australia Catherine understands the specific challenges faced by those in rural and regional areas.  She has assisted many metropolitan, rural and agricultural clients to navigate the complexities of family law especially where there is intergenerational business or farming enterprises including companies, trusts and self managed superannuation funds.

Catherine can provide specialised assistance in the following areas:

  • divorce
  • parenting matters
  • pre-relationship and pre-marriage financial agreements
  • de facto and matrimonial property with complex property pools, farms and family businesses
  • spousal maintenance
  • child support and adult child maintenance
  • children’s and parenting matters including relocation
  • mediation

Being Adelaide metropolitan based since 2012, Catherine has raised two children who have experienced both city and country living like her.  They are all avid travellers and campers.

When she can, Catherine likes to get away with friends and family to explore the wide brown land, South Australia’s wineries, restaurants and especially the gin distilleries.

Catherine is a qualified mediator having successfully completed the AIFLAM mediation program in October 2023.

She is a member of Family Law Section; Law Society of SA; and AIFLAM and she is on the Practice & Ethics Committee of Law Society

Contact Catherine Leis