Things to consider when selecting a Family Dispute Resolution Practitioner – “Mediator “
A Family Dispute Resolution Practitioner (FDRP) is the umbrella title for an independent person who helps people affected by separation or divorce, to resolve their parenting disputes. This person is often referred to as a “mediator”.
To be called an FDRP an individual must meet the accreditation standards laid out in the Family Law (Family Dispute Resolution Practitioners) Regulations, 2008 and registered with the Attorney general’s Department. Part of this process includes an assessment for competency in screening families for family violence and child abuse.
The law requires separating families who have a dispute about children to make a genuine effort to try to sort it out through family dispute resolution (FDR) before filing an application for parenting orders in court.
Why FDR is an Important Tool
The reasons for seeking a professional dedicated to this type of conflict resolution, specifically trained to work with parental parties, are countless.
An FDRP is an independent person who can help people discuss issues, look at options and work out how best to reach agreement in disputes about children. Mediators often have a background in Law, Social work, Psychology, Dispute Resolution or Mediation.
To ensure the safety and wellbeing of any concerned children, a mediator must be skilled to deal with potentially hostile negotiations between disagreeing parties, while keeping an eye out for the safety of each individual.
In addition, family dispute resolution is much less expensive, more civil and generally quicker than proceedings that go through the courts. In fact, 97% of Australian parents don’t go to court to make parental arrangements after separating.
Children and Family Dispute Resolution
Children can in some cases be part of the mediation in ‘child-inclusive’ mediation, with a child consultant that talks with the children and provides the child’s views back to the parents during the mediation. The presence of a child is generally guided by the best judgement of the FDRP and will have to do with their age, the hostility of the breakup and all major factors involved in the separation.
FDR sessions are used to facilitate co-parenting, for parents looking to co-operate and create favourable outcomes for their child or children. Separated couples who are looking to co-parent can utilise an FDR setting to develop a workable parenting plan with a neutral mediator, both for efficiency and to avoid expensive litigation. This also minimizes trauma and conflict for the children.
Confidentiality and Inadmissibility of Discussions in Court
Everything you say in front of an FDRP is confidential, your session is a safe space. There are some circumstantial exceptions, such as to prevent a threat to someone’s life or health or the commission of a crime.
Communications made in FDR are not admissible in any court or proceedings, in any jurisdiction. Additionally, a communication made when a professional consultation is being carried out, on referral from an FDRP, is also inadmissible in any court or proceedings in any jurisdiction.
In order to ensure that professionals to whom mediators make referrals are aware of the inadmissible status of communications made to them, mediators are required to inform relevant professionals of this when making a referral. An admission or disclosure that indicates that a child under 18 has been abused, or is at risk of abuse, may be admitted as evidence unless there is sufficient evidence of the admission or disclosure available to the court from other sources.
What to Look For in a Family Dispute Practitioner
Poor Family Dispute Resolution practices can include:
- Not explaining how the process will run thoroughly, before starting a session
- Talking over the top of a client, not allowing them to speak freely
- Using confusing legal jargon, as opposed to simply, easy to understand terminology
- Failing to inform a client the details of how a Section 60I certificate is issued
- A mediator who does not allow the involved parties to freely make up their own mind and instead guides decision making with opinion
- A practitioner that displays judgment when a patient recounts any of their past experiences
- Not identifying past instances of violence as a crime
- Failing to provide adequate information and resources if past instances of domestic violence are mentioned, to allow the affected parties to seek legal advice and make an informed decision on what to do next
If your FDR practitioner displays any of the above qualities, you should seriously reconsider engaging their services again as they are not meeting their professional responsibilities.
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