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  • Carla Santalucia

What is Family Dispute Resolution?

Updated: Apr 23, 2021

Prior to commencing proceedings in the family law system, parties must make a ‘genuine attempt’ at resolving their disputes through Family Dispute Resolution (FDR). It is in most cases a necessary step in the family law process.

What is FDR?

FDR is a mediation session convened by an accredited Family Dispute Resolution Practitioner (FDRP), who facilitates discussions between parties and/or their lawyers. The ultimate goal of FDR is to assist parties in resolving their family law dispute out of Court, in a timely, cost-effective and child-focussed manner.

Parties may choose to engage with mediation services such as Family Relationships Centres or Relationship Australia, or they may prefer a private mediator. Where a party is eligible for Victoria Legal Aid funding, the parties may opt to participate in lawyer-assisted mediation through the Victoria Legal Aid Family Dispute Resolution Service.

What is the process?

Regardless of which service parties ultimately select, family law matters will be assessed for FDR suitability in line with relevant legislation. This assessment is completed during an intake phase, where the FDRP will speak with parties separately regarding the issues in dispute.

If the matter is assessed as suitable for FDR, the matter will proceed to mediation in one of the following ways:

Joint Format

With the parties attend FDR in the same room, on the same conference call or video link, having facilitated discussions with the FDRP present.

Shuttle Format

In this format, FDRPs will move between the two parties as the middleman, relaying information and proposals as required.

The shuttle format is most appropriate in cases where there have been allegations of family violence between the parties, where there are concerns for either party’s safety, or where the parties’ communication is so poor and the conflict so high that a joint session would not be helpful.

Importance of section 60I certificate

Generally, the Court will not hear an application for parenting Orders unless an Initiating Application is accompanied by a s 60I certificate, which demonstrates that parties have attempted FDR. However, this rule does not apply in certain circumstances, such as instances of extreme family violence or where the matter is urgent.

The FDRP must issue a s 60I certificate on one of the following grounds:

  • One of the parties did not attend FDR

  • The FDRP did not consider it appropriate to conduct FDR (For example, where an Intervention Order is in place and does not allow for FDR)

  • The parties attended FDR and made a genuine attempt to resolve the dispute – (This applies regardless of whether the matter resolved or not at FDR)

  • The parties attend FDR, but one or more of the parties did not make a genuine attempt to resolve the dispute (For example, if a party decides to no longer participate part-way through FDR session)

  • The parties began attending FDR, but the practitioner did not consider it was appropriate for the FDR to continue (This means that the matter is assessed as unsuitable for FDR based on the circumstances of that case)

The s 60I certificate can be issued before, during or after the FDR session. Due to the confidentiality of the FDR process, the reasons behind an FDRP’s decision cannot be disclosed.

What comes after FDR?

Parties may avoid litigation by resolving their family law dispute at FDR. Where only some issues are resolved, parties may choose to continue using FDR services if required. Where FDR is unsuccessful and the issues remain largely unresolved, parties are at liberty to initiate proceedings.

Should you wish to discuss Family Dispute Resolution or other parenting matters with our team, please contact Clark Family Lawyers on 9988 2387 for a free initial consultation.

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