Family Dispute Resolution

The Family Dispute Resolution process assists separating parents reach agreement on issues around the care of their children.

As registered Family Dispute Resolution practitioners we are trained to help parents have productive discussions that focus on children’s needs.

We believe that each individual has a unique story

Undoubtedly divorce and separation are emotionally draining.  Our role is to support parents in making workable arrangements for their children’s care as they begin establishing their new co-parenting relationship.

Upon divorce and separation communication between parents can become strained at a time when children need their parents to be able to communicate effectively.

Children may not have the language to express their loss therefore the greatest gift separating parents can give their children is peace, stability and protection from conflict.

 

Changes Related to Family Separation

In the past parents unable to agree about parenting arrangements may have gone directly to court to resolve their issues.

Currently parents who wish to make an application to court for Parenting Orders must first attempt to sort out parenting matters by attending Family Dispute Resolution.

Changes made to the Family Law Act in 2006 and 2012 were designed to improve the way the law operates for families experiencing separation.

Frequently Asked Questions

Parents who are able to reach satisfactory agreement about parenting arrangements may not need to attend Family Dispute Resolution or Court.

The Family Law Act requires parents in dispute about post separation arrangements to attend Family Dispute Resolution before applying to the Court for Parenting Orders.

Parents unable to reach agreement are required to obtain a section 60I Certificate from a registered Family Dispute Resolution Practitioner confirming they attempted to mediate. The certificate may be required if they intend to file an application to the Court for Parenting Orders. Exceptions to this requirement involve matters of urgency or family violence.

Mediators are required by law to make an assessment to determine whether Mediation is appropriate and suited to your needs. Parties need to be able to mediate safely and negotiate freely. Let us know if you have any safety concerns.
If one party declines to mediate or agreement is not reached, as registered Family Dispute Resolution Practitioners we are authorised to issue a section 60I certificate confirming that you attempted to mediate.

Should you wish to take the matter to Court to apply for Parenting Orders you may be required to provide the certificate with an application. There are exceptions to this requirement.

Certificates are not required in relation to property matters.

Discussions held in Mediation, including private sessions, remain confidential and may not be spoken of in Family Court proceedings. Family Dispute Resolution Practitioners have a legal duty to maintain confidentiality however Practitioners are required by law to report any harm or potential harm to a child or an adult.
Legal advice is important in making informed decisions and understanding for example what outcomes are likely if you were to take the matter to Court. We work collaboratively with lawyers and encourage clients to seek legal advice.

Agreements made regarding where your children live and time spent can affect Child Support. In relation to mediated property agreements it is important that you gain advice prior to proposals being presented or signing agreements.

In order for lawyers to give good advice you need to ask good questions.  Think about what you want to achieve and prepare a list of questions before you contact them.

A Parenting Plan is a written document signed and dated by both parents which outlines the responsibilities of parents and covers post separation arrangements about the care of children.

Parenting Plans record details about where children will live and with whom, time spent with parents and extended family, communication between parents, how parents will consult about day to day and long term issues.

We can create a Parenting Plan for you based on the agreements you have reached at Family Dispute Resolution. Parenting Plans reflect the needs of each family and will vary accordingly.

Parenting Plans can be reworked or updated without making an application to the Court.

Parenting Plans are not legally binding or enforceable and are known as good will agreements. A Parenting Plan is a useful reminder of what you have agreed to and may however be taken into account if you were to take parenting matters to Court. If you require a binding agreement you may wish to consider an application for Consent Orders.
We offer helpful information and will identify and provide resources for clients who need to develop a Parenting Plan.
Consent Orders are binding, enforceable and based upon agreements parents themselves have reached concerning their children or property.

Providing you both agree you can ask your lawyers to draft Consent Orders based on agreements reached at mediation such as those contained in a Parenting Plan. Your lawyer will lodge the application with the Court on your behalf.

If the Court is satisfied that the agreement is in the best interests of the child and approves the application, the Consent Orders will be as binding as Parenting Orders. The difference is that Consent Orders are devised by parents and Parenting Orders are made by a Judge.

If Consent Orders no longer reflect the needs of your children they can be updated by going through the same process. Alternatively you may consider using a Consent Orders Kit.

The Family Law Act encourages parental co-operation. Unless a Court decides otherwise a presumption exists in favour of parents having equal shared parental responsibility for making decisions about important long term issues that affect children such as health, education, religion and culture.

Whilst it is recognised that children have a right to a relationship with both parents the law states that children have a right to be protected from harm including family violence. When a Court is faced with matters about the care of children its primary focus is upon what is in the best interests of the child.

Equal time is often referred to as 50/50 care. Parents wishing to spend equal time with children will need to consider how workable this is for the child. In other words what are the developmental needs of the child? What would the impact upon the child be? Studies about 50/50 care indicate that it works more effectively when conflict is low, parents are cooperative, live reasonably close and when children are able to express themselves verbally.

Substantial and significant time refers to time spent with a child when equal time is not an option. Its about the overall mix of time.  In other words, parents sharing involvement and participation in the child’s daily life and routine including holidays, special days, school and sporting events, birthdays and ceremonies.

Please raise this issue with us in advance of Mediation and we will discuss our policy on support persons.
A written record of agreements and proposals reached is provided to both parties. Agreements reached in mediation are not legally binding. Where a binding agreement is required it is wise to seek legal advice.

In terms of moving forward, it is helpful to consider how you’ll manage any future conflict should it arise.

Although children are often the subject of the Mediation it is not appropriate for children to attend. Only parents and family dispute resolution practitioners are involved in Mediation sessions.  Sometimes by arrangement lawyers will be present with their clients at legally assisted FDR Mediation.

Steps involved in the process

1

You and your former partner attend individual 1 hour pre-mediation meetings to have a confidential discussion with a Family Dispute Resolution Practitioner, in person or by phone. The purpose is to define what you hope to achieve and establish whether Family Dispute Resolution is appropriate .

We’ll provide information, help you prepare then book appointments for a 3 hour Mediation session providing Mediation is suitable.

2

Mediation begins with each client having a brief private discussion with the Mediator. Once settled around the mediation table the Mediator explains the process and guidelines that help to ensure the experience is productive.

You’ll each be asked to make a brief opening statement naming the issues you would like to discuss. These statements form the basis of an agenda which the Mediator will record.

3

Working through each item on the agenda the Mediator provides structure to the discussion, helping you to have your say and stay on topic.

Each topic is explored and options are generated with the Mediator facilitating negotiations and assisting you to reach mutually acceptable agreements.

Over the course of the Mediation the Mediator will convene individual confidential meetings with each client.

Agreements reached are recorded. If required we can draft your agreements into Parenting Plans which are signed and dated by both parties. If required you can ask your lawyer to make an application for Consent Orders based on agreements reached at Mediation