Family Dispute Resolution: Everything You Need to Know

Family law matters are often emotionally charged and mentally straining for all parties involved. While achieving amicable resolutions can often prove to be a demanding task, Family Dispute Resolution serves as an invaluable tool for fostering cooperation while simultaneously easing the emotional and financial burden of litigation.  


What is Family Dispute Resolution (FDR)?

In the realm of family law, mediation is known as Family Dispute Resolution. It is a confidential process in which an impartial mediator facilitates communication and negotiation between parties involved in a family law dispute. FDR is specially designed for separated families to help with disputes regarding children and parenting, division of property,  partner financial maintenance and adult child financial maintenance. It also allows other important parties to be present, particularly when discussing parenting matters. This may include grandparents, aunties and uncles.



How does it work?

Lead by an accredited mediator, both parties have the opportunity to discuss their concerns. The mediator then guides the conversation in a way that fosters communication and explores potential solutions. Throughout the process, the mediator will remain impartial to ensure a fair and balanced exchange of ideas. Any agreement reached during the session will be documented, and parties have the opportunity to seek legal advice before finalising it. If FDR is not suitable or an agreement cannot be reached, the mediator can issue a certificate that allows parties to apply to court for resolution.  



What is the role of the mediator?

Mediators are independent and trained professionals who act as neutral facilitators, not advocates. In FDR, mediators are known as Family Dispute Resolution Practitioners, and must be registered on the Attorney General’s Family Dispute Resolution Register. Their role is to create a safe and supportive environment where all parties can express their concerns and work towards an agreement. Mediators do not provide legal advice, but rather guide participants through the mediation process and ensure all relevant issues are discussed. When arranging FDR, an independent practitioner will be assigned to your matter.



Do I need a lawyer present?

Although it’s not compulsory, it is recommended that you are represented by a lawyer at FDR or receive independent legal advice prior to attending. Having a skilled family lawyer on your side has many benefits. They can provide valuable guidance before, during and after the mediation, ensure your rights and interests are protected, and help you understand the legal implications of any proposed agreements. At Waters Lawyers, we are highly experienced at supporting and representing clients during mediation to reach favourable outcomes.



Is Family Dispute Resolution mandatory?

In many situations, FDR is mandated by the court. For example, if you want a Parenting Order, the court will insist you try FDR first. This is often the case in regard to property, too. While FDR is mandated in many family law cases, certain exceptions exist. It may not be suitable in cases involving family violence, child abuse or urgency. In such situations, the safety and wellbeing of individuals involved are paramount and alternative dispute resolution methods may be employed. At Waters Lawyers, we will be able to advise on the best path forward for your matter. 



Is Family Dispute Resolution really worth it?

In most cases, yes – and here’s why.

1.     Cost-effective
Mediation is often significantly more cost-effective than proceeding to court. Legal fees, court costs and the lengthy nature of litigation can be financially draining. FDR typically requires fewer resources, making it a more affordable option for resolving family disputes. 

2.     Faster resolution
In comparison to litigation, which can often drag on for extended periods, mediation often leads to quicker resolutions.

3.     Empowerment
Unlike in court where a judge makes the final decision, FDR allows parties to have more control and influence over the resolution and shape an agreement that best suits their unique circumstances.

4.     Preserves relationships
FDR is designed to promote cooperation between parties, which helps to preserve relationships. This is particularly important when co-parenting is necessary.



Family Dispute Resolution offers a more constructive and cost-effective way to navigate the complexities of family law cases and empowers parties to create solutions tailored to their unique circumstances.

Through decades of experience in family law matters, the team at Waters Lawyers can advise on your unique matter, the best path forward and the anticipated outcome. We can also arrange Family Dispute Resolution and advocate for you throughout the entire process.

For a free and non-obligational consultation, book via our website or contact our friendly team on (03) 5996 1600.
Child looking at parents during a shared custody matter
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