A Comprehensive Guide To Family Dispute Resolution

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Family Dispute Resolution (FDR), also known as family mediation, can help couples who are separating make important decisions for their children and their future care and living arrangements. Some things to be considered might include living arrangements, shared time, holidays, education costs, and child support. 

The Family Dispute Resolution mediation process is child-focused, always keeping in mind the best interests of the child ensuing their safety and future needs. The agreement made in Family Dispute Resolution can be made into a parenting plan and into consent orders which when lodged at the court become legally binding.

Family Dispute Resolution mediation for families is future-focused; it recognizes that the relationship of the parents has ended however the family is still connected through the children.

Family Dispute Resolution can also help couples work through their financial and property settlements and assist them to come to a reasonable agreement through respectful conversation. Engaging in mediation in this way will avoid lengthy courts waiting time as well as expensive legal fees.

Family Dispute Resolution is a voluntary process, which means that each party comes to mediation of their own free will.

Uncoupling understands that the relationship is over; however the family is still connected through the children and will be so forever.

We encourage parents to remain child/ren and future-focused looking ahead to next year, and the year after and 10 years after that …..always thinking about the best interests of the child, their living arrangements, school, social engagements, health, relationships. At Uncoupling, the Family Dispute Resolution mediation process is conducted with dignity and respect.

The Family Dispute Resolution conference can be commenced at any stage of the separation, before after or during. We recommend that you talk to a mediator sooner rather than later. That way you can be informed of the considerations that need to be made during this process. 

We recommend that you speak to a family lawyer to understand how the law and the courts would view your particular circumstances, however there is no need for you to go through a lengthy legal process to develop your parenting plan or financial agreement. 

Even if you are working with a lawyer or have court proceedings coming up working with a mediator to develop a parenting plan will have a fast and immediate positive effect on your lives. It will help you and the children maintain your close relationship.


6 keys to separating without an expensive court battle

The Benefits of FDR

Uncoupling FDR will help with the parenting plans around the children’s care and well-being and can also help with financial and property settlements.

We will identify all the issues around your children which need to be resolved.

We will remain child-focused and ensure that any agreement reached is safe and secure and appropriate for your children.

In a financial separation, we will help you identify all assets and liabilities and assist you in deciding how these are to be shared.

Mediation is a structured process designed to help you negotiate and resolve issues around parenting and property.

Mediation will save you time, avoiding becoming involved in a lengthy court process, and money, not paying expensive legal fees.

More importantly, mediation provides a platform for you to resolve issues more readily in a respectful framework building on the opportunity for you to have an ongoing positive relationship.

In mediation, you are the drivers and you (together) make the decisions.

Mediation is less stressful than going to court.

The Family Dispute Resolution Process

The family dispute resolution processes are now compulsory by law. The law requires couples who are separated to resolve their disputes about the children and what is in their best interests through mediation. Couples are required to make a real and genuine effort to resolve these issues before proceeding to court.

If no agreement is reached in mediation or either party does not willingly engage, an s60i Certificate (Family Dispute Resolution Certificate) can be issued by the Family Dispute Resolution Practitioner, for the case to be taken to the court.

It is often not possible to engage in mediation in cases involving child abuse or family violence and these cases would generally proceed to court.

What happens in Family Dispute Resolution?

FDR commences with each party having an individual assessment. The family dispute practitioner then assesses the suitability of their circumstances for FDR. In some cases where there is family violence or child abuse present, the case might be referred to another appropriate service.

Uncoupling has a second meeting with each client, a Pre-mediation meeting, a mediation preparation meeting, in which matters to be discussed will be identified including the needs of the children in a parenting mediation and identification of assets in a financial matter, and preparation for the FDR conference.

FDR is the third part of the process. It is the conference where parties come together to make the parenting or financial agreements, and the parenting plan or financial agreement.

The Family Dispute Resolution Process follows this format :

Is Family Dispute Resolution Safe?

Your safety and the safety of the children is of paramount importance. The mediation intake process will include risk screening to assess the suitability for mediation. 

There are several ways in which the conference can be conducted. Providing there are no court orders preventing any contact, mediation could be conducted face to face, all parties meeting together or by way of shuttle, meaning one party is in one room in the building, and the other is separate in another room or online. In a “shuttle” mediation the parties will have staggered arrival times so that there is no chance of the parties meeting.

What is the role of the Family Dispute Resolution Practitioner?

A family dispute resolution (FDR) practitioner is an independent person who helps people affected by separation or divorce to resolve their parenting disputes.

To qualify as an FDR practitioner, you must meet the accreditation standards in the Family Law (Family Dispute Resolution Practitioners) Regulations 2008, which includes having been assessed as competent in screening and assessing families for family violence and child abuse. You must be registered with the Attorney General’s Department.

A Family Dispute Resolution Practitioner:

Will provide legal information, information on the FDR process and family court system, information on parenting plans and other age/case-specific information 

Will facilitate communication between the parties 

Will not make judgements

Will not provide legal advice (unless a lawyer) 

Will remain neutral and independent of the parties

Will ensure that the process is safe

Will explain full disclosure obligations 

Will ensure the best interest of the child

Will explain confidentiality and inadmissibility 

Is a mandatory reporter 

Has a duty of care to all parties and worker

Do I need legal advice?

In most cases, mediation is the best way to make plans for your children’s future and to work through your property settlement. It is timely and cost-effective and more importantly, it is future-focused. At Uncoupling we are mindful that even though your relationship has ended, you are still connected as a family through the children and will be so for many years. 

We also recommend that you consult with a lawyer so that you understand how you would be positioned in the eyes of the law and the courts. While we recommend you consult a lawyer, Uncoupling will help you avoid becoming tied up in expensive and time-consuming legal processes. We help you ensure the law is a small part of the process, not the major and emotionally-draining experience it can be in some cases.

How much will FDR cost?

Uncoupling offers a fixed price mediation package.

Do the children come to FDR?

Parenting Mediation is child-focused, designed to be in the best interests of the child. However, the children do not generally come to mediation. 

Child Inclusive Mediation, can be arranged for older children to have a voice in the mediation. This can be valuable in giving parents a true sense of what’s going on for the children how they are coping, and their hopes and dreams for the future. Child Inclusive Mediation is conducted by suitably qualified Child Inclusive Practitioner and can only occur if both parents and the children agree.

Is FDR confidential?

Everything you say in front of an FDR practitioner is confidential, with only some exceptions:

An FDR practitioner must report child abuse or anything that indicates a child is at risk of abuse, and this may be used as evidence in some circumstances.

An FDR practitioner must report a threat to someone’s life or health.

An FDR practitioner must report the possibility of a crime.

BUT what is said during FDR cannot be used as evidence in court. It is inadmissible.

What if we do not reach agreement in Family Dispute Resolution?

If no agreement is reached in a parenting mediation, the Family Dispute Resolution practitioner can issue a certificate to allow an application to be made to a family law court. 

This certificate is called a ‘Section 60i certificate’.

A Section 60I certificate can also be issued if FDR is not appropriate because there might be concerns about family violence, the safety of the parties and risks to children, the ability for each party to be able to negotiate, or other issues the practitioner feels are relevant.

The Section 60i certificate will say one of the following things:

  • the other party did not attend
  • you and the other party attended and made a genuine effort to resolve the dispute
  • you and the other party attended but one or both of you did not make a genuine effort to resolve the dispute
  • the FDR practitioner decided your case was not appropriate for FDR, or
  • the FDR practitioner decided it was not appropriate to continue part way through the FDR process.

Book Your Free Consultation

Book in a 15 minute call with Yvonne to fully understand how you can develop a parenting plan and financial plan without the pain or expense of going to court

Book Your Free Consultation

Book in a 15 minute call with Yvonne to fully understand how you can develop a parenting plan and financial plan without the pain or expense of going to court

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