Family Dispute Resolution

A special type of mediation for separated families

Family Dispute Resolution (‘FDR”) is a special type of mediation to help separated families reach an agreement on parenting, property, and financial separation without necessarily having to go to Court.  During the FDR process, the Family Dispute Resolution Practitioner (‘FDRP’) helps parties identify the issues in dispute, find where there is common ground, generate options for resolving issues and negotiate agreements.  Where FDR involves children, the process is future focussed with the primary focus on the best interests of the children.  The process is designed to help parties find solutions that suit everyone, particularly the children.  It’s practical, confidential and has a proven track record of success.  If you can resolve your differences without the need to involve lawyers, other professionals, or Court you’ll save time and money, as well as avoid the emotional cost that lawyers and Court may cause.

FDR is compulsory under Australian family law for separated parents before applying to a Family Court for parenting orders, and a s60I certificate is required, unless you meet the exceptions to the rule.  The exceptions for the requirement of a section 60I certificate before proceeding to court include:

  • when you are formalising an agreement through ‘consent orders’
  • where family violence or child abuse is a factor
  • when you are responding to an application to Court
  • urgent issues
  • a person is unable to participate effectively (for example, due to incapacity or geographical location)
  • a person has contravened and shown a serious disregard for a Court Order made in the last 12 months.

Ruth is an experienced FDRP having mediated hundreds of mediations including parenting, property and/or financial separation, grandparenting and elder abuse issues.  Although a Domestic Violence Order or Protection Order or similar doesn’t necessarily mean mediation is not an option, if there is an Order in place Ruth needs to see a copy before the process can start.

Ruth Chowdhury in a Family Dispute Resolution meeting

So how do you get started?

Step 1: Party A Intake

The first step is to book an intake appointment with Ruth.  Intake is compulsory for any mediations where children are involved.

The first person to book an intake is sometimes known as Party A.  The Party A intake process takes up to 2 hours and includes the invitation process and case assessment (see below).  The Party B intake usually takes 90 minutes.  The intake is an opportunity for you and Ruth to have a confidential chat one on one about the history of your relationship before and after separation, what’s been happening in the past, where you are now, your goals and dreams for the future, and identify any emotional trigger points other parties might use at the mediation.  It’s also a chance for you to discuss any risk and safety concerns that you may have.  Ruth can work with you to outline a safety plan and make referrals for you to access support services if necessary.  In the event there are serious risk and safety concerns, it may not be appropriate to proceed to mediation at that point in time and a section 60I(b) will be issued to you which states that mediation is not appropriate at this point in time.

Step 2: Invitations

After the Party A intake, if it’s appropriate to proceed to mediation, Ruth will start the engagement process.  The law says that two invitations to engage in mediation must be sent to the other party or parties, and at least one invitation must be in writing.  So, with your consent, Ruth will extend the invitations to the other party.  Unfortunately, Ruth can’t force anyone to engage in FDR.  In the event the other party declines the invitation or does not respond, Ruth will issue the section 60I(a) certificate that states that you tried to engage, and the other party refused to attend.

Step 3: Party B Intake

If the other party agrees to participate in mediation, then they will book a Party B intake with Ruth.  The Party B intake usually takes 90 minutes as it doesn’t involve the invitation process.  The intake process is the same for all parties – Ruth will ask the same questions and give the same information to everyone. 

Ruth will also use the intake as an opportunity to let you know how to prepare for mediation, and how to meet your disclosure obligations if necessary.

Step 4: Case Assessment

After everyone has completed the intake process, Ruth will do a case assessment and see:

  • is it appropriate to proceed to mediation at this point in time? If not, Ruth will give a section 60I(b) certificate to each party
  • if it is appropriate to proceed to mediation at that point in time, Ruth will consider which type of mediation will work best for everyone
  • The mediation options include:
    • Shuttle mediation where you don’t see each other or hear each other’s voices. Ruth only does shuttle mediation by telephone or Zoom.  Ruth takes the view that if you can’t be in the same room, you shouldn’t be in the same building for safety reasons.
    • Face to face mediation where everyone is in the same room
    • Telephone or online mediation where the mediation is by a three way telephone conference call or Zoom/Teams
    • Ruth will also take into account your preferences for the type of mediation

Step 5: Book and attend mediation

After that, you book in a mediation at a mutually convenient time.  Ruth will call each party the week before to check in, and will meet with each party privately before mediation on the day.  Once the mediation starts, Ruth will go through the mediation participation agreement with everyone, and set some ground rules.  Ruth will then invite each party to give an opening statement setting out the goals for the mediation.  From there, Ruth will develop an agenda and then discussions begin.  Ruth cannot give legal advice, tell you what to do, or make suggestions as to the way forward.  Ruth’s role is to help you have a conversation – a sometimes difficult conversation, in a fair and balanced manner.

Ruth will document anything you agree to as a heads of agreement document.  Provided everyone made a genuine effort, Ruth will issue the section 60I(c) certificate to that effect.


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