- Family Dispute Resolution (FDR) is a type of mediation that is mandated by Australian family law to help separating families reach their own agreements.
- FDR is typically used to resolve parenting matters and property division in a less costly and time-consuming manner than going to court.
- It is run by an accredited third-party facilitator who helps parties find mutually acceptable solutions.
- FDR is compulsory for parenting matters before applying to the court for orders but may not be suitable in cases involving safety concerns or family violence.
- Benefits of FDR include retaining control over decisions, flexibility in agreements, cost-effectiveness, and improved communication between parties.
Is Family Dispute Resolution the same thing as mediation?
Family Dispute Resolution and mediation are very similar and are related processes, however, they are not the exact same thing.
Mediation and FDR have a number of things in common, including using a third-party facilitator whose role is to ensure the parties communicate effectively, understand each other’s perspectives, and explore potential resolution outcomes. FDR is also technically a type of mediation and couldn’t technically exist without mediation.
However, while they have similarities, there are also a number of key differences, including but not limited to:
- Family Dispute Resolution is specifically for family disputes that arise from the breakdown of a family relationship and is mandated by the Australian family law system.
- Before applying to the court for parenting orders, Family Dispute Resolution must be attempted. There could be exceptions to this, depending on unique factors.
- Family Dispute Resolution only focuses on family law matters, whereas mediation can be used to resolve a wide range of disputes, including those outside of family law.
If you would like to learn more about mediation in family law, you can read this article.
When do you do Family Dispute Resolution?
Family Dispute Resolution can technically be tried at any point of your separation and in some situations, if you wish to apply to the family law court for orders, you will be required to genuinely attempt Family Dispute Resolution first.
To clarify, it is not required if you are applying for divorce orders, but it is almost always required if you want parenting orders from the court. However, if you’re applying to the court to make a parenting agreement legally binding through a consent order, it is also not required.
It’s possible to try Family Dispute Resolution even when you’ve already started court proceedings and, in some situations, you may be ordered by the court to participate in family dispute resolution first.
Family Dispute Resolution can be beneficial for many people, however, it may not be appropriate in every situation. Some situations where Family Dispute Resolution may not be appropriate include:
- It may put your child’s safety at risk
- It may put your own safety at risk
- If a mental illness or substance abuse issue impacts a parties ability to make decisions and cannot participate effectively.
- There are intervention orders
- The matter is urgent
- If there are allegations of child abuse that are being investigated
- There has been family violence or domestic violence perpetrated by either party.
When exactly is family dispute resolution compulsory?
We mentioned earlier that family dispute resolution is compulsory in some situations. According to the Australian family law system, family dispute resolution must have been genuinely attempted before people can apply to the court for parenting orders.
As we mentioned above, FDR may not always be an appropriate option in every situation, however, one reason it is compulsory in parenting matters is because parenting arrangements can be flexible and highly specific to your own unique situation, and by participating in FDR, you may be able to come to an agreement that is best for your children and you.
What are the benefits of family dispute resolution?
Resolving disputes through Family Dispute Resolution has many different benefits, including:
- You can make your own decisions, retaining more control over the outcome than if a judge were to make decisions and making it more likely for both parties to stick to the agreements.
- It allows you to factor in the unique circumstances of each party to create flexible arrangements that are not general in nature.
- If your agreement breaks down, situations change or you just need to refresh your agreements, it’s possible to revisit Family Dispute Resolution to make new arrangements.
- It is often a cheaper and faster process than going through court proceedings.
- It may also help to improve communications and relationships between the disputing parties, which can be helpful in situations where children are involved and communication in the future is likely to be necessary.
How does Family Dispute Resolution work?
Before any dispute resolution proceeds, you and your situation will be reviewed by the practitioner to ensure that family dispute resolution is appropriate for your case. This usually involves each party being interviewed.
If family dispute resolution is deemed appropriate in your situation it will go ahead and be conducted by the accredited and registered dispute resolution practitioner. They will take the time to discuss each parties’ concerns and wishes and essentially facilitate discussions and exploration of various resolution options.
Dispute resolution can be conducted through Family Relationship Centres in Australia, where the service is usually available free of charge for the first session. Dispute resolution can also be conducted through private Family Dispute Resolution Practitioners. Private practitioners will usually charge fees. If you’re looking for Family Dispute Resolution services, you can find a list of all accredited Family Dispute Resolution Practitioners here.
For some people, Family Dispute Resolution will lead to agreements being made, which can be formalised and made legally binding by applying to the court for consent orders. It’s important to note that when it comes to parenting arrangements, parties have the option to create a parenting plan which cannot be legally formalised, or they can make a parenting arrangement that can be formalised with consent orders.
Can a lawyer come to FDR?
It is possible for a family lawyer to be involved in a Family Dispute Resolution service. This usually requires that both parties agree to the presence of lawyers.
A lawyer can help to provide legal advice, as well as ensure that their client understands their rights, obligations and options. They can also provide guidance and ensure that their client’s legal rights are protected throughout the process.
Lawyer assisted family dispute resolution may not be a service offered by all family dispute resolution practitioners.
Are you going through a separation?
If you’ve separated from your partner and you’re trying to work out your next steps, consider getting in touch with our family law firm today.
We’re family lawyers with experience in all areas of family law, including assisting with resolving the matters that arise from separation. If you’re preparing to undertake family dispute resolution, we can also provide support, guidance and advice. If you’re not sure where to start with your separation, we can also help you.
Our compassionate team understands how stressful and overwhelming family law matters can be, so we’re here for you whenever you need us. Our 24/7 service is available to people Australia-wide.
Call us today on 1300 667 461 or book a free consultation using the button below.
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