When families decide to separate, there are a number of areas in which both parties will need to negotiate. For various reasons, you could find that you and your former spouse are unable to come to a joint decision on things, particularly in relation to care arrangements for your children. Family Dispute Resolution can be vital in these situations and help you to navigate this difficult time while ensuring the safety and wellbeing of your children. Here’s everything you need to know about Family Dispute Resolution and how it can benefit you.
What is Family Dispute Resolution?
Family Dispute Resolution (“FDR”) is a type of mediation, designed to assist families who are separating to resolve conflicts and disputes, particularly in relation to the care of their children. An expert FDR practitioner will meet with you and your former spouse to discuss the care arrangements of your children, as well as any other areas of conflict. Such practitioners are impartial and are there to help you resolve issues prior to progressing through court.
In most cases, FDR is compulsory before you can apply to the court for a parenting order. However, you shouldn’t feel like you just need to go for protocol’s sake – FDR can be a valuable tool to help you and your former spouse/partner communicate openly and reach an agreement regarding the care arrangements for your children which is in their best interests.
What is the process for Family Dispute Resolution?
Once you have arranged an FDR meeting, the goal is for both parties to be heard before possible solutions are discussed. The FDR practitioner will first speak with each of you and your former partner to ensure that FDR is appropriate. Once this screening process occurs, if the FDR practitioner does not consider that FDR is appropriate (which is not usually the case), the FDRP will issue a certificate to that effect, which means that either party could issue court proceedings. The FDRP would otherwise arrange a joint session between the parties to commence discussions. An agenda would usually be set based on the issues that you and your former partner/spouse wish to discuss and resolve.
A typical FDR session will involve:
● Identifying issues to be discussed
● Each person having a chance to share their perspective uninterrupted
● All relevant information being tabled
● Discussing options and possible solutions
● Putting any decisions and agreements in writing via a parenting plan (see our article “What is the difference between a parenting plan and a consent order?” under the “News” tab on our website)
It’s important to note that any agreements made during FDR are not legally binding. The focus here is to have both parties communicate openly and be genuinely willing to compromise and make the best decisions for their children. Should you and your former partner/spouse reach an agreement at
FDR which is set out in a parenting plan, you and your former partner/spouse can formalise this agreement by way of a consent order, which is sent to the court to be considered by a Registrar. Unlike a parenting plan, the terms of a consent order are enforceable.
Should you and your former spouse/partner be unable to come to an agreement at FDR, a last resort may be to issue court proceedings to seek parenting orders.
Deciding on care arrangements for children following a separation can be immensely difficult, but it’s important that all parties feel heard, and that your children are being cared for appropriately. It is important to remember that when considering the care arrangements for children, the paramount consideration is the best interests of the children.
If you require legal advice or assistance negotiating care arrangements for your children, please be sure to contact us to discuss your needs today.