If you have separated from your spouse or partner, you will know the emotion and practical issues involved when dividing property and arranging for the ongoing care of children. Family Dispute Resolution is a Government-funded mediation service that assists separating couples to reach agreement regarding such matters.
Family Dispute Resolution is conducted by accredited and registered practitioners and is offered by individuals or through Family Relationships Centres and other community organisations.
The Family Law Act 1975 (Cth) encourages negotiation and mediation to resolve all family law matters and, unless extenuating circumstances exist, dispute resolution is compulsory before parties go to Court for applications concerning children.
Our lawyers have significant experience in family law matters and can recommend a family dispute practitioner near you. We will advise you of your rights and work with all parties to try to resolve your matter with minimal conflict and disruption.
Why use Family Dispute Resolution?
Dispute resolution can help resolve issues without the stress and financial burden of attending Court. It is generally a more efficient way of dealing with matters of conflict and any agreement reached can be documented through consent orders which are legally binding.
Consent orders can include the care and living arrangements for children as well as property matters. They can be prepared by your lawyer and filed without the need for you or your ex-partner to attend Court.
Even if an agreement cannot be reached, dispute resolution processes can assist in narrowing the issues between the parties, allowing a more focused approach to resolving the actual problems.
What happens at Family Dispute Resolution?
The role of the dispute resolution practitioner is to assist the parties to cooperate in a positive manner and to work through the real issues, leaving emotional matters aside.
When mediating children’s matters, the best interests of the child or children will be the primary consideration. Children do not attend however in some cases a family counsellor or child psychologist will communicate with a child and provide a report.
Family members or support persons may also attend and, parties who wish to have a lawyer involved should discuss this with the practitioner conducting the mediation beforehand.
The parties should make genuine efforts to resolve the issues in dispute and explore options for workable arrangements that will be in the children’s best interests.
If both parties attend family dispute resolution and the outcome is unsuccessful, the practitioner will issue a certificate noting their attendance and verifying that each made a genuine attempt to resolve the dispute.
The certificate may note that one party failed to attend or one or both parties failed to make a genuine attempt to resolve the dispute (either initially or part way through the mediation). Alternatively, the certificate may state that dispute resolution was not appropriate in the circumstances.
Non-attendance (unless an exception applies) may result in a delayed Court hearing or adverse costs orders.
When don’t I need to attend family dispute resolution?
In most cases, a certificate from a family dispute resolution practitioner is required before starting Court proceedings for any children’s matters. However, sometimes mediation is not appropriate for the parties or not required, such as where:
- The parties agree and are applying for consent orders;
- A party is responding to an application (already filed in the Court);
- The matter is urgent;
- The matter involves family violence or child abuse issues;
- A party cannot effectively participate because of his or her incapacity or location;
- The application is for the contravention of an existing order made in the past 12 months and a person has shown serious disregard to the obligations under the order.
Separation can cause turmoil for all parties involved. Recognised as one of the most stressful events in life, it can be difficult for couples to agree on major decisions, let alone find neutral ground for trivial matters. Family dispute resolution can help resolve such matters with the assistance of a neutral mediator and the guidance of your lawyer.