LawTalk Blog

What is Family Dispute Resolution?

What is Family Dispute Resolution

Family Dispute Resolution (“FDR”) is a specific type of mediation that assists separated couples in sorting out arrangements for their children and sometimes, also property. It is conducted by a Family Dispute Resolution practitioner who is required to have special training to allow them to conduct FDR’s.

There are now a large number of agencies that provide Family Dispute Resolution services for people involved in a parenting dispute. The main providers are community based or government providers but these often have long wait lists. More recently private providers of these services are more common and can be much faster to organise and usually have more flexible arrangements; for a price.

During the FDR the practitioner will assist the parties to try and reach an agreement about the living arrangements of the children. Sometimes this also includes property settlement. It should be noted however that, the practitioner cannot offer legal advice to the parties and cannot decide the outcome of the FDR.

In order for agreement to be reached, the parties must reach that agreement between themselves. Sometimes at the FDR the parties may agree on some of the matters in dispute but not all of them. Whilst technically this means that the FDR did not settle, in some cases a Parenting Plan can be drawn up to set out what has been agreed to and a further FDR can be scheduled.

What can you do prior to attending at FDR to improve the likelihood of success?

Our advice is that prior to attending at FDR, the parties each obtain their own independent legal advice from specialist Family Lawyer.

It’s important to do this so that you can obtain advice tailored to your individual circumstances about matters such as parental responsibility and living arrangements of the children.

If you’re considering dealing with property settlement at FDR, it’s also very important to get advice about your entitlements beforehand so that you are aware of these when you are mediating. Every case is different and you cannot rely on generic material published about these matters; you should get tailored advice, specifically for you.

A good lawyer can assist you to work out a detailed proposal that fits your situation and can also tailor a solution to your needs and point out matters that you may not have considered previously. They should prepare a written proposal for you to take with you to reference and work through at your FDR. This gives you the best chance of getting the most favourable outcome for you and your children.

The more prepared you are when going into FDR, the better your chance of a good result.

At Andersons, we can arrange private FDR where the parties can have their own legal representatives present at the mediation, to provide advice.

The law provides that parties are required to attempt Family Dispute Resolution prior to instituting proceedings in court. There are however exceptions to this requirement. The exceptions include:

  1. Cases where there is family violence or abuse or a risk of family violence or abuse;
  2. Cases where an existing parenting order has been breached; or
  3. Cases where the application is urgent.

If you’re looking at instituting proceedings in court for a parenting order, you should obtain advice if you’re seeking to rely on one of these exceptions.

A Family Dispute Resolution practitioner provides a certificate known as a Section 60I Certificate to confirm that the parties have attended at Family Dispute Resolution. They will still provide the certificate if:

  1. one of the parties did not turn up;
  2. the practitioner considered that it would not be appropriate to conduct the proposed Family Dispute Resolution (this often occurs in cases of domestic violence);
  3. both parties have attended and both parties made a genuine attempt to resolve the issues;
  4. both parties attended and one party did not make a genuine effort to resolve the issues; or
  5. the parties began dispute resolution but the practitioner did not consider it would be appropriate to continue the dispute resolution.

If you’re thinking of going to FDR make sure you get legal advice from a lawyer experienced in Family Law first.

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Get in touch with today's blog writer:
Ryan Thomas

Partner in Family Law

Please note, this Blog is posted in Adelaide, South Australia by Andersons Solicitors. It relates to Australian Federal legislation. Andersons Solicitors is a medium sized law firm servicing metropolitan Adelaide and regional South Australia across all areas of law for individuals and businesses.

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