What is family dispute resolution?
Family dispute resolution (FDR) is the broad term used by the Family Law Act for processes in which a family dispute resolution practitioner, who is independent of the parties, helps people affected by separation or divorce to resolve some or all of their disputes with each other.
A family dispute resolution practitioner (FDRP) must have completed the requirements for registration with an organization that conducts the appropriate training required by the Federal Attorney General’s Department.
The dispute resolution process conducted by a FDRP is usually a form of mediation.
FDR came into existence as a formal process under the Act in 2006. Since then the practice of FDR has been growing and developing in conjunction with the Courts and is used by private mediators and agencies.
The Attorney-General’s FDR training of FDRP’s specifically includes information and competency relevant to disputes involving children and tests FDRP’s for competency in dealing with family violence issues.
It is not necessary for a mediator or mediation-style conference chair to be a FDRP in order to mediate financial and property disputes.
An AIFLAM mediator who is a registered FDRP may also have their name listed as a Family Dispute Resolution Practitioner on the AIFLAM website.
Why family dispute resolution?
It is a requirement of the Family Law Act that parties attend family dispute resolution with a registered FDRP before applying to the Court for orders relating to children.
A party must file a Certificate provided by the FDRP t the time they file any application where they seek orders in relation to children to confirm that the parties have attended for family dispute resolution or that they have a reason why they did not attend. Only in exceptional circumstances such as urgency or violence are parties excused from filing this Certificate.
A Certificate from a FDRP is not necessary for disputes relating only to property settlement and financial issues.
It may be important therefore to know whether a mediator is registered as a FDRP if there are children’s issues at stake that may need to be mediated.
What happens at family dispute resolution?
Family Dispute Resolution is usually a form of mediation and offers the same informal means of resolving disputes, without the need for preparation of expensive documents and without the need for attendance at court events and with the same benefits as mediation.
Like mediation every FDRP has a unique model with features that are common to mediation.
FDR is confidential unless exceptions provided for in the Family law Act exist.
FDRP’s like mediators are aware of the need to preserve safety for parties and to ensure that each party is able to negotiate on a level playing field. They are required to assess parties carefully before accepting them into family dispute resolution.
Like mediators they are trained to recognise power imbalances between parties and to take steps to promote parties’ self-determination in the mediation. They are also very aware of the effects of family violence and abuse on children and parties.
Children may sometimes be involved in FDR, only under very specific circumstances and with guidelines agreed between the FDRP and the parties.
Who are the family dispute resolution practitioners?
FDRP’s are all specifically trained professionals who have complied with national training standards set by the Attorney-General’s Department. They have a registration number and are listed on the Attorney-General’s Register of Family Dispute Resolution Providers (www.fdrr.ag.gov.au ).
The AIFLAM web site provides details of Institute members who are both Nationally Accredited Mediators and FDRP’s, most of whom are also experienced family lawyers. In a complex children’s matter or financial and parenting dispute this experience can be of great assistance.