Navigating the System

Mediation &  Family Dispute Resolution

Requirements for filing parenting applications

If you want to apply to the Court for a parenting order (and you have not previously applied), you will need a certificate from a registered Family Counsellor or Family Dispute Resolution Provider which confirms that you have participated in family dispute resolution or attempted to do so. There are some exceptions to this requirement, such as urgent cases or cases involving family violence or child abuse.

The Family Law Courts will not accept a new application for a parenting order without a certificate from a registered Family Counsellor or Family Dispute Resolution Practitioner unless an exemption has been claimed.

For more information about compulsory dispute resolution call the Family Relationship Advice Line on 1800 050 321 or go to Family Relationships Online

Family dispute resolution

Changes to the   Family Law Act 1975, introduced in July 2006, emphasise the need to use community-based family relationship services. For more information visit the Family Relationships Online.

Under the changes, services within the community are provided by accredited practitioners, such as family dispute resolution practitioners and family counsellors.

Unless authorized by the Family Law Act, family dispute resolution practitioners and family counsellors must not disclose communications made in family counselling or family dispute resolution. See Sections  10B-10K of the Family Law Act for detail about accredited community-based practitioners.

What is family dispute resolution?

Family dispute resolution is the name in the Family Law Act for services such as mediation and conciliation that help people affected by separation and divorce to sort out their disputes with each other. You may have reached a point where you can’t agree on issues concerning your property, children, or money. You may not be able to talk to each other at all.

Family dispute resolution can help you sort out these issues without going to court. If you can resolve your differences you’ll save yourself time, money and a whole lot of stress.

What is compulsory family dispute resolution?

If you want to apply to the court for a parenting order (and you have not previously applied), you will need a certificate from a registered family dispute resolution provider which confirms that an attempt at family dispute resolution was made.

There are some exceptions to this requirement, such as cases involving family violence or child abuse.

What are the exceptions to compulsory family dispute resolution?

You are not required to attend family dispute resolution:

If you have reached agreement and are applying for a consent order where the matter is urgent and if the court has reasonable grounds to believe that:

    • family violence or child abuse has occurred, or
    • there is a risk of violence or child abuse if there was to be a delay
  • where it is not practical for you to attend (for example, it is too far to a dispute resolution provider or you are physically unable to attend)
  • where a person has contravened and shown a serious disregard for a court order made in the last 12 months.

If you are responding to a court application

  • If the matter is about breaking an existing order that is less than 12 months old and a person has shown a ‘serious disregard’ for their obligations under the order

If you use the exception relating to family violence or child abuse, you will need to get information about your options and about services that can help you. You will need to get this information from a family counsellor or family dispute resolution practitioner or by ringing the Family Relationship Advice Line on 1800 050 321.

You do not have to get this information if the court has reason to believe there is a current risk of violence or child abuse.