What is a Family Mediation Service?Nick Richards FDRP LL.B MBA GDLP DMgmt MQLS
What is Family Mediation?
This is commonly referred to in the Australian court and legal system as Family Dispute Resolution (FDR). It is a service that helps people affected by separation or divorce to sort out family disputes. It is also known family mediation.
FDR can help people to agree on a range of issues relating to property, money, and most importantly, their children.
FDR services are provided by us in a matter of ways:
- in person;
Does the law state that we must undertake FDR?
The law requires separating families who have a dispute about children to make a genuine effort to try to sort it out through family dispute resolution (FDR) before filing an application for parenting orders in court.
This requirement applies to anyone wanting to file an application with a family law court. It also includes those seeking changes to an existing parenting order. There are a few exceptions to this requirement, such as cases involving family violence, child abuse or urgency.
Unless an exemption applies, parties seeking to have a parenting matter determined by a family law court will need to file a certificate from an accredited FDR practitioner. The certificate is issued under Section 60I of the Family Law Act 1975 and is commonly known as a Section 60I Certificate and can only be given by FDR practitioners accredited under the Family Law (Family Dispute Resolution Practitioners) Regulations 2008.
What is the cost of FDR?
The process can be quicker and cheaper than going to court or paying legal fees. FDR services may charge fees on a fixed fee or hourly fee basis. Mediation for Families™ generally charge on a fixed fee basis giving clients better certainty of their costs to allow them to budget for unexpected costs.
Is everything discussed at FDR confidential?
Everything said in front of an FDR practitioner is confidential in the mediation – except in given circumstances, such as to prevent a serious threat to someone’s life or health or the commission of a crime.
Anything said during FDR cannot be used as evidence in court. However, FDR practitioners must report child abuse, or anything said that indicates a child is at risk of abuse, and this can be used as evidence in some circumstances.
What if we reach an agreement at the mediation?
Agreements about care of the children
If an agreement is reached on arrangements for your children, this can be recorded as a parenting plan. A parenting plan must be in writing, dated and signed by both parties. The agreement or parenting plan can include mechanisms to alter arrangements and resolve disagreements (many parties include a Mediation for Families™ mediation clause). It is common that parenting plans are renegotiated over time and this may affect care arrangements for the children and may affect child support, income support, and family assistance payments.
How to make an agreement enforceable
If you want to make your agreements legally binding, you can apply to the court to have your agreement made into a Consent Order. You can do this yourself or ask your lawyer to do it for you. If purchasing our fixed fee package we will draft the agreement for your lawyer.
What happens if we don’t reach an agreement at the mediation?
Even if an agreement is not reached, it is widely recognised and acknowledged that FDR can assist parties. Many parties have found that after FDR they communicate better.
If you have gone through the FDR process but still need to go to court for a Parenting Order, you will need Section 60i Certificate from an FDR practitioner. The certificate will say one of the following:
- you and the other party attended and made a genuine effort to resolve the dispute.
- you and the other party attended but one or both of you did not make a genuine effort.
- the other party did not attend.
- the FDR practitioner decided your case was not appropriate for FDR; or
- the FDR practitioner decided it was not appropriate to continue part way through the FDR process.