What is Family Dispute Resolution?
Family Dispute Resolution (“FDR”) is a process by which people in conflict can be helped to communicate with each other about what is important for them and how to make decisions about resolving their dispute. (Definition provided from the Relationships Australia WA website)
FDR practitioners provide parents with a neutral environment to talk to one another and to assist parents to sort out their parenting issues/concerns in an attempt to reach mutually satisfying agreements.
What is the FDR process and what are the expectations for parents?
The FDR process involves a number of sessions including:
- intake and assessment sessions to identify the issues within the family and determine if FDR is suitable in the circumstances;
- attend a preparation for FDR session (pre-intake session); and
- attend a joint FDR session.
Parents are required to:
- listen to each other’s point of view without interruption;
- identify issues which need to be resolved;
- share relevant information;
- explore ideas and options;
- test possible solutions; and
- put decisions and agreements in writing.
FDR practitioners do not give legal advice, however practitioners may explore options focusing on the “best interests of the child”. FDR is confidential and any matters discussed or raised at FDR cannot be used by a parent as part of any Family Court proceedings.
What are the requirements to apply to the Family Court?
Parents are required to attend compulsory FDR and make a genuine effort to reach agreement before applying to the Family Court for Orders relating to children. (See s60I of the Family Law Act, s66H of the Family Court Act)
Ordinarily, an application cannot be filed with the Court unless it is accompanied by a certificate issued by an FDR provider about the parties’ attendance at FDR, or if one party refused to attend, about that refusal. (See s60I (7) of the Family Law Act, s66H (6) of the Family Court Act) Parents who fail to attend FDR may find a FDR practitioner will issue that other parent with a Section 60I certificate (section 66H certificate equivalent), without further notice to that parent.
The Family Court will not require a certificate if an application is made in certain circumstances, including if there are allegations of abuse, family violence or other circumstances of urgency. (See s60J of the Family Law Act, s66I of the Family Court Act) The Court is unable to hear an application by a parent until they have indicated in writing whether the parent has received information from a family counsellor or FDR practitioner about the services and options available in circumstances of abuse or violence. (See 60J (1) (b) of the Family Law Act, section 66I (1) (b) of the Family Court Act)
Public and private FDR services
Parents are able to engage the services of an FDR practitioner through public organisations such as Family Relationship Centres, Centrecare, Relationships Australia and Anglicare. These services have nominal costs, however they generally have long wait lists.
There are also private FDR practitioners who are able to assist parents with FDR. Private services are more expensive, however private FDR practitioners are generally able to accommodate a request for FDR within a shorter period of time.
A list of all FDR practitioners including contact details and locations, whether government or private, can be found on the Family Dispute Resolution Register at https://www.fdrr.ag.gov.au/Search.aspx