Family Dispute Resolution

Family Dispute Resolution (FDR) & Mediation

Separation is an emotionally draining and extremely stressful time for all concerned.

Sometimes you get to a point where you cannot even talk to each other about issues such as parenting arrangements, money or property and the only option you can see is court. If this sounds like where you and your former partner are at, then, Family Dispute Resolution maybe able to assist.

What is Family Dispute Resolution (FDR)?

Family Dispute Resolution (FDR) is the legal term for mediation and is usually between couples going through separation or divorce. It enables both parties to sort out the issues such as:

  • Parenting arrangements
  • Issues with child behaviour or development
  • Division of property or assets within the relationship
  • Options and next steps

Family dispute resolution saves time and the cost of going through court proceedings. In fact, the Family Law Act 1975 Cth, requires that before parents or other parties in dispute can lodge an application about arrangements for children, they must first make a genuine effort to resolve the dispute through family dispute resolution. This includes other parties in children’s lives such as grandparents, guardians or other family members etc.

Family Dispute Resolution Practitioners must be accredited and registered with the Federal Attorney General’s Department—so not every nationally accredited mediator can mediate family disputes or separations.

Family dispute resolution:

  • Is voluntary. No one can be made to use family dispute resolution if they don’t want to and it can only work if all parties are willing and able to negotiate freely;
  • Is neutral and impartial. The practitioners assist the parties to negotiate but do not take sides. Family dispute resolution practitioners do not make decisions in relation to the matters in dispute. They help facilitate discussions and assist parents and others by coming up with child friendly and focused outcomes. The mediator comes from the view point of the child or children so they can have a voice in the midst of two disputing parties;
  • Is designed to empower the parties to make decisions and relies on direct communication. People work at their own pace, exploring options and are encouraged to consider first and foremost the needs of the children and then each other. Whereas court dis-empowers parental decision-making and ultimately gives a judge the power to make decisions on the parents behalf;
  • Agreements reached can be as comprehensive or as a brief as the parties’ desire;
  • Agreements made are not legally binding, however steps can be taken to make them so, and often this is highly recommended;

Do I have to be separating or divorced to use family dispute resolution?

No. Mediation can be useful in many areas. It is not relationship counselling, however if you are having difficulties with these sorts of issues (and others) in your relationship and you are not separating, you might find mediation, counselling or relationship coaching beneficial.  Joliman Mediation Services has access to a range of external counselling services such as individual, couples and family counselling and family therapy that we can recommend or refer to and also offers relationship coaching.

Other types of mediation

Other types of mediation are available, such as parent and young person mediation, post-separation parenting mediation and property or asset division.

What can I expect from Family Dispute Resolution?

You can expect everything you say in front of your FDR practitioner to be kept confidential, unless there is a legal requirement such as reporting a crime or preventing harm to other persons or property.

What is said and done in Family Dispute Resolution is bound by privacy limitations. This means that if you do end up at court after not being able to come to suitable agreements at FDR, then you can rest assured that what happened in FDR is not going to come back to haunt you by being used against you.

Before you start family dispute resolution, your FDR practitioner must tell you about:

  • The process
  • Your rights and obligations
  • Information about parenting plans (if children are involved)
  • Information about other services available to help you
  • Fees chargeable
  • Their credentials

You will also be given a fact sheet to read in accordance with “Regulation 28 of the Family Law (Family Dispute Resolution Practitioners) Regulations 2008″ about the rights and obligations of all parties.

During the process, your FDR practitioner will help both of you:

  • Talk about your issues and ensure that both parties are heard and understood
  • Focus on what is most important, especially on what are the best outcomes for children
  • Look at options
  • Work out how to best reach agreements.

What happens when agreements are reached?

As previously stated, agreements reached in family dispute resolution are not legally binding. You can apply to the court to have your agreements made into consent orders, which are legally binding and which we recommend. We can refer you to appropriate and experienced family law practitioner to assist you do so, or you can use one of our in house family lawyers to draft the agreement up for you.  If you choose this option you will be required to both obtain independent legal advise before signing.

Agreements reached about children are recorded as a parenting plan. Parenting plans must be in writing, dated and signed by both parents. These plans can be renegotiated if circumstances change.

What if we don’t reach an agreement?

This sometimes happens. Even if you don’t reach an agreement, people often find that FDR has helped them communicate better. Reasons that family dispute resolution might not reach an agreement include:

  • One party not attending
  • One or both parties not making a genuine effort to resolve the dispute
  • An FDR practitioner deciding that your case is not appropriate for FDR (before or during the process)

Need to ask more questions? Call and speak with one of our mediators on 03 5482 4003

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