What is Family Dispute Resolution? (FDR)

Family dispute resolution is the legal term for mediation and other types of services that help people in separation and divorce sort out their family disputes. FDR can assist in resolving issues related to children and property.

Is FDR compulsory ?

The Family Law Act, 1975 requires parties in family disputes about children's matters to make a genuine effort to resolve the disputes before applying to the family law courts for parenting orders. To apply to the family law court for parenting orders you must have a  section 60(i) certificate issued by an FDR practitioner, unless you meet certain exceptions. Refer to this web link for further information on exemptions

http://www.familycourt.gov.au/wps/wcm/connect/fcoaweb/reports-and-publications/publications/getting-ready-for-court/compulsory-family-dispute-resolution-court-procedures-and-requirements 

Who can issue a certificate?

Section 60(i) certificates can only be issued by a registered Family Dispute Resolution Practitioner  (FDRP) accredited under the Family Law ( Family Dispute Resolution Practitioners) Regulations 2008. 

 

What is the role of an FDRP? 

The FDRP is a neutral person registered with the Attorney Generals dept to be able to facilitate the FDR process.

The FDRP is:

  • impartial

  • registered and qualified to conduct FDR according to regulations of the Family Law Act

  • a mandatory reporter of child abuse

  • a facilitator of the process of FDR for parties to be able to attempt to explore the key issues and resolve parenting and property disputes

  • able to issue the Section 60(i) certificate under the Family Law Act

  • bound by confidentiality with exceptions as discussed with clients at outset of FDR

The FDRP is not able to act in the role of :

  • a counsellor

  • a therapist

  • legal advisor 

What are the benefits of trying FDR?

FDR helps you and your former partner agree to solutions for parenting and property matters after separation and it is:

  • confidential

  • child focused

  • takes into consideration your particular family needs

  • more affordable than court process

  • more readily accessible than a court process

  • provides opportunity and space for both parents to work through the dispute with an impartial third party

What do I need to know before FDR? 

The FDRP will provide you with information on:

  • the FDR process

  • the role of the FDRP

  • your rights 

  • a complaints process

  • costs - usually shared by both parties - refer to the fees page of this website 

  • parenting plans and other services available to assist you

  • community legal services 

  • hints on how to best prepare for FDR

What are the steps to participate in FDR?

1. Intake assessment appointment

After you have made your initial inquiry and the FDRP has explained what to expect in mediation and gained some general information about your situation - it is necessary that the FDRP conduct an intake assessment appointment with you. This appointment is a one on one session with yourself and the FDRP. The purpose of this appointment is to gain further information about you and your family situation and to determine if your matter is suitable for FDR. It is also an opportunity for you to ask questions and receive more information on the FDR process. This appointment allows the FDRP to make an assessment of parties safety including children involved in the matter. You will be asked to sign a consent form to permit the FDRP to invite the other party into the mediation process. The FDRP may also provide you with appropriate referrals to other support services where this is helpful. This appointment generally takes between 1 - 1.5 hours.

2. Inviting the other party 

If the FDRP determine it is suitable to invite the other party, then two invitations must be extended to the other party and at least one of those invitations must be in writing e.g. email or post. If the other party does not respond to this invitation then a follow up call will be made by the FDRP to the other party as a final invitation and to ensure they understand the consequences of not engaging in FDR. If the other party is still unable to be contacted or declines the invitation then a section 60(i) certificate may be issued to the initiating party.

 

If the other party accepts the invitation to participate in FDR, the FDRP will conduct an intake assessment appointment with them and then make a determination if the matter is suitable to proceed to FDR. If the matter is deemed suitable to proceed to FDR then the FDRP will call both parties to negotiate a suitable FDR session date, time and location. If the FDRP determines the matter unsuitable to proceed to FDR, then each party will be advised that the matter is not suitable to proceed, however due to confidentiality the reason for not proceeding the matter to mediation will not be provided to either party. In this instance a section 60(i) certificate may be issued to both parties.

3. The FDR session

The FDR session can take between 3 and 4 hours depending on the type of FDR  and issues to be discussed and needing to be resolved. The FDR process may be conducted by phone, on line or face to face and will be determined by the FDRP as to what is most suitable for your situation and safety. Not all matters may be resolved in the first session and follow up sessions may be required.

 

FDR session process summary of what happens :

  • The FDRP will open the session with a statement about the process, ground rules, expectations and their role

  • Each party will be given an opportunity to make an opening statement to the FDRP about what brings them to FDR

  • The FDRP will then provide a summary of each parties statement and form an agenda of issues for parties to explore and resolve

  • The FDRP will facilitate a discussion for parties to be able to work through each agenda item and explain to each other their perspectives on what is currently happening and how it is impacting them and the children. This is an important stage of the FDR process where parties actively listen to each other in an attempt to understand the others views and perspectives on matters in dispute

  • The FDRP will call a private session with each party - each private session is confidential and the FDRP will not discuss anything in private session with the other party. The private session allows the FDRP to check in on each party and how they perceive the session is going for them and to ask each party to consider any options they may be considering proposing when the joint session resumes and to check on the reality of those options in meeting the best interests of children or in property matters the reality of options being proposed in the immediate and longer term.

  • The FDRP will then have parties recommence the joint session and with a view to focusing on the future, as up until this point the session was focusing on what has been happening and it is important now to focus on what is going to work into the future. parties will work through the agenda and negotiate options for possible formulation of agreements. The FDRP will be guiding parties to remain focused on the best interests of the children in all negotiations.  A further private session may or may not be held after this negotiation phase.

  • The FDRP will facilitate the drafting of agreements and may reality test with parties the livability and application of proposed agreements with consideration to the best interests of children and where relevant any property agreements. Agreements will be prepared and issued to parties at the conclusion of the FDR session. If not agreement is reached the FDRP will issue both parties with a section 60(i) certificate. 

It may be necessary for a follow up FDR session if parties have been unable to resolve all issue in the initial session and this can be negotiated with the FDRP at the conclusion of the first session.