What is Family Dispute Resolution?

In Australia, since 2006, the Family Law Act provides that all people who have a dispute about children, (under Part VII of the Act) must make a genuine effort to resolve that dispute by family dispute resolution (FDR) before they can make any legal applications to the Family Court. Family Dispute Resolution is the process of facilitated mediation that enables this non-legal and non-adversarial pathway to take place.

The process is facilitated by a Family Dispute Resolution Practitioner (FDRP) who has a formal qualification in FDR, is accredited with a recognized professional body and is registered with the Federal Attorney General’s Department to provide FDR. Any one can search the Attorney General’s website to find a registered FDRP.

The most common issues negotiated in FDR are around how the separated parents will continue to look after their child/children when they no longer live together as a couple. It is important that children do not get caught up in the disagreements that separating parents often have. Research evidence shows that high acrimony between separated parents directly affects children’s adaptation to the separation. Protecting children from the anger parents may feel toward each other takes real commitment. An independent FDRP can assist by managing the negotiation process on issues that often inflame emotional responses from both parents.

The FDR process has a few steps to it and these are informed by the FDRP Regulations and the Family Law Act 1975.

All parties wanting to undertake FDR meet individually with the practitioner for an assessment for approximately 1.5 hours. After all those involved in the mediation have been seen, the practitioner will make an informed decision on whether FDR is the best pathway to take.

If the decision is taken to proceed, the practitioner will arrange for all parties to meet at a mutually convenient time to begin the FDR. In most situations, 2-3 hours is sufficient time for the parties involved to come to an agreement.

Another mediation session may be required if an agreement hasn’t been reached and all parties and the FDRP feel that more time will assist in reaching an agreement.

Going through the FDR process gives both parents essential input into how they will communicate and co-parent into the future and is an integral part of them being successful in this new parenting relationship. Making the decisions gives greater “buy in” and commitment to the agreements reached from both parties. This decreases the animosity and helps the children adjust better to the separation and the new way for them of being in their family.

Counselling can also be a helpful service for separating parents and is very different to mediation. Your FDRP may recommend and/or refer you to individual or family counselling, along with other services that may assist you to cope with the separation and the myriad of changes that this brings.

As both a counsellor and a FDRP I will have a professional conflict of interest if I work with an individual and/or a couple in both these roles. For this reason if I see a couple as their therapist I will refer them to another independent FDRP – alternately if I have seen a couple for mediation I will refer to an independent counsellor if/as appropriate.

For further information or to make an appointment, contact Deborah on 0458 677 108.

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