Family Dispute Resolution (colloquially known as “FDR”) is a type of mediation available to parties to attempt to resolve family law disputes without going to court. It is defined at Section 10F of the Family Law Act 1975 (Cth) (“the Act”).
Family dispute resolution is a process (other than a judicial process):
Simply put, FDR is mediation in which an FDR practitioner aims to assist Mums and Dads in either narrowing the issues in dispute or (hopefully) reaching a final agreement.
FDR is confidential, which means that should final agreement not be reached, parties cannot rely on discussions had during FDR in future court proceedings.
Before you can make an application to the court (seeking orders, other than by consent) in respect of parenting matters, you must have attempted FDR and must have obtained what is referred to as a ‘Section 60I certificate’.
A Section 60I Certificate can be issued in a number of circumstances. Whilst the court does not pay huge attention to why the Certificate was issued, it is important that you know that the FDR practitioner has to give a reason (marked on the back of the certificate) as to why the certificate was issued.
Simply put, before you can make an application to the court, you must have made a genuine effort to resolve the dispute through FDR.
Historically, the family law system has always had an emphasis on alternative dispute resolution (i.e. the resolution of disputes outside of the court system). It’s quicker, a path of least conflict and generally a more cost-effective way to resolve a dispute with the other parent.
Any path that avoids a child being placed in a position of parents having extenuating conflict, is an alternate path worth pursuing.
The widespread reforms of the Family Law System in 2006 included changes to the Act in respect of dispute resolution. The aim is to:
At the time, the changes to the legislation regarding dispute resolution were described by the Attorney General as designed to:
‘keep families out of the courts and deliver practical co-operative outcomes for separating families’.
Ultimately this depends on how confident you are in reaching an agreement and negotiating with the other person.
Some of our clients feel reassured by having someone there to guide them through the process. Some people would prefer to do it on their own and then consult a lawyer if FDR fails.
We always recommend that you seek some legal advice before attending FDR. Even if to draft a template ‘Heads of Agreement’ so you are ready to address all matters (rather than only those discussed) at the end of the day. This will also help you to ensure you address issues you may not have previously thought of.
The process is exhausting. If you have a strategy in place before it gets underway, this can always assist.
At Meillon & Bright, we are experienced in both assisting clients prepare for FDR and also attending with them.
Family Lawyers Perth & Sydney
The information contained in this article is of general nature and should not be construed as legal advice. If you require further information, advice or assistance for your specific circumstances, please contact Meillon & Bright Family Lawyers.