Understanding family dispute resolution (“FDR”) processes is important for separating families. FDR provides a constructive and collaborative approach to resolving disputes.

The objective of FDR is to help avoid costly, stressful, and time-consuming court proceedings. This occurs by facilitating an open dialogue, allowing negotiations whilst staying focused on shared objectives and common interests.

FDR permits for decisions to be tailored to your family circumstances, ensuring that the outcomes are mutually beneficial. Rather than leaving the entirety of the decision-making to the court where you may have no say in the result.

FDR discussions and negotiations, when conducted with a court accredited practitioner, are confidential and not admissible in court.

Throughout this article I’ll take you through:

  • The processes of FDR
  • What disputes FDR can settle
  • When FDR is voluntary and mandatory

I’ll also discuss when FDR can occur and, the costs and time frames involved.

What is family dispute resolution?

FDR is the process of settling disagreements or conflict between families external to court proceedings. This process allows you to have a say in the resolution of your matter.

This involves voluntary cooperation, negotiations, and constructive problem-solving between the participants.

Mediation, arbitration, conciliation, and court-based conferences are all types of FDR processes. These methods can be used to settle disputes including:

  1. Childcare arrangements
  2. Spousal maintenance
  3. Property divisions
  4. Binding Financial Agreements

Mediation involves an independent, qualified mediator assisting you and the other party in identifying issues and negotiating an agreement to resolve your dispute.

Arbitration differs from mediation in that the final decision is made by this independent third party. You and the other party submit your financial dispute and the arbitrator then makes a binding decision.

If you were to enter into the conciliation process that would involve you and the other party negotiating with a Judicial Registrar of the Court to make a genuine effort to settle your dispute.

Finally, court based and ordered FDR conferences, which will explained later in the article.

When is family dispute resolution compulsory?

Mediation can be compulsory before an application is filed with the court when seeking parenting orders.

In most circumstances you are required to attain a Section 60I Certificate from a registered FDR practitioner before proceedings commence.

This means that you would need to invite your former partner, or whoever you are in dispute with, to mediation. If they turn down your invitation, or the process was unsuccessful, you will then be issued a Section 60I permitting you to commence court proceedings.

FDR conferences can be ordered by the court at any time during the court process. If this occurs, it is compulsory to attend. If an interim or final agreement is reached, orders may be made by a registrar of the court. If no agreement is reached the matter will progress to the next stage of the court process.

While court proceedings are underway, either party can invite the other to attend FDR in an attempt to settle all outstanding issues.

While it isn’t compulsory to accept this invitation, it may be advisable depending on the circumstances.

How much does this process cost?

The cost for FDR can vary and depend on a number of factors. These include, but aren’t limited to:

  1. Whether the parties have Legal Aid
  2. FDR practitioner’s and solicitor’s fees
  3. Complexity of matter
  4. Number of parties and children involved

Depending on the above factors, a privately paid half-day FDR process may cost between $2500-$5000. If one party has a grant of Legal Aid, the FDR practitioner’s fees may be covered for both parties.

If the FDR process is court ordered, there are no fees payable for the Registrar’s fees.

How long does family dispute resolution take

The length of time that FDR takes can vary depending on the complexity of the issues in dispute and the willingness of all involved to come to a resolution.

It may take several sessions over the course of a few weeks or months, or it could be resolved in just one session. Each FDR conference generally lasts between 2-8 hours.

FDR may be beneficial for your matter, but that isn’t always the case, such as if there is a history of family violence. In these situations, there are methods that can be implemented to ensure safety.

How can we help?

It is important to obtain independent legal advice that is specific to your situation to decide if FDR is in your best interest.

As trusted family lawyers servicing Newcastle, Maitland, Sydney, and the Hunter Valley region of NSW, we will assist you throughout the entire process to make it as simple and stress-free as possible.

Contact myself and the family law team today to discuss the next steps for your family law matter.

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