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Family Dispute Resolution in Family Law

Section 60I of the Family Law Act requires you to make a genuine effort to resolve parenting issues with your ex. This must happen before you can start court proceedings or apply for court orders.

Family Dispute Resolution is also known as mediation. You may be able to access it via government funded organisations such as a Family Relationship Centre or Legal Aid. There are also privately funded mediation options.

An independent certified Family Dispute Resolution practitioner will mediate with you and your ex-partner. Practitioners are trained to help people feel safe so you can discuss issues openly. They are experts in dealing with family law disputes and have experience with family violence and abuse. They provide a safe framework to discuss difficult issues.

The aim is to resolve the dispute without going to court. This generally means a better foundation for co-parenting in the future. It is also far less costly.

The dispute resolution process focuses on solutions for the children. Often both parties meet together. Sometimes the practitioner uses one-on-one meetings to help the discussion.

Family Dispute Resolution is not counselling. It focuses on practical logistics about the children and how to look after them. It does not address emotional wellbeing of parents.

If the parties reach agreement, the terms are usually recorded in writing. This may be a parenting plan, or court orders which both sides agree to.

If you can't reach agreement, you usually continue to court proceedings. This requires a certificate from the practitioner. If you try to organise mediation and your ex-partner or the other party does not attend, the certificate will record this.

There are some exemptions to attending Family Dispute Resolution / mediation. These are:

  • Abuse of a child by one of the parties
  • Risk of abuse if there was a delay in applying for an order
  • History of family violence
  • Risk of family violence
  • One party has not complied with court orders made in the last 12 months
  • Urgent issues such as an application for the recovery of a child
  • Practical obstacles like distant locations or physical disability

Do you need Family Dispute Resolution? Would it help in your situation? To find out, please contact your family law specialists at Karen Haga & Associates.