A registered family dispute resolution provider is an individual or organisation who has met the required standards of training, experience and suitability for inclusion on the Family Dispute Resolution Register. Registered family dispute resolution providers can conduct family dispute resolution and, if needed, issue a certificate for you to take to court to confirm that an attempt at family dispute resolution was made.
The Australian Government funds Family Relationship Centres, and a number of other community-based organisations, under the Family Relationship Services Program to provide Family Dispute Resolution Services across Australia. Other organisations may be designated under the Family Law Act 1975 to provide family dispute resolution. All these organisations will be registered family dispute resolution providers. Individuals working in private practice may also apply to be registered family dispute resolution providers.
Why should I use a registered family dispute resolution provider?
Where you are unable to resolve your arrangements through family dispute resolution and decide to go to court, you will need a certificate to say you have tried to solve the matter through family dispute resolution (unless you meet one of the exceptions). You will only be able to obtain a valid certificate from a registered family dispute resolution provider.
How do I get screened out?
If a family dispute resolution practitioner does not believe it is appropriate to proceed, they can issue you with a certificate exempting you from mediation and you can then start court proceedings. You will need to file the exemption certificate with your court documents.
In working out whether to mediate or not, a family dispute resolution practitioner must consider whether a person’s ability to negotiate freely in the dispute is affected by any of the following
•a history of domestic violence
•the likely safety of the people involved
•equality of bargaining power between you and the other parent
•the risk that a child may suffer abuse
•the emotional, psychological and physical health of you and your expartner
•any other relevant matter
How do I find a registered family dispute resolution provider?
To find a family dispute resolution provider Click here
What information will a family dispute resolution practitioner provide me with?
Family dispute resolution providers must provide you with a statement about the process and your rights and about the qualifications of, and fees charged by a family dispute resolution practitioner before family dispute resolution can be started.
If you are trying to resolve disagreements about your children, the family dispute resolution practitioner must give you information about parenting plans and other services available to help you.
Family dispute resolution practitioners are also required to provide you with the particulars about a complaints mechanism which you can use should you wish to complain about the services they provide to you.
What happens in family dispute resolution?
A family dispute resolution practitioner can help you and the other person discuss issues, look at options, and to develop arrangements for your children.
Before family dispute resolution can commence, an assessment will be made to see whether family dispute resolution is suitable for your situation.
Are things said at family dispute resolution confidential and can they be used in court?
Under the Family Law Act, everything you say in front of a family dispute resolution practitioner is confidential – except in certain circumstances, such as to prevent a serious threat to someone’s life or health or to prevent the commission of a crime.
What is said during family dispute resolution cannot be used as evidence in any court. However a family dispute resolution practitioner must report child abuse, or anything said that indicates a child is at risk of abuse and this may be used as evidence in some circumstances.
What if you are feeling unsafe?
If you have concerns about your safety or the safety of your children, you should let the service staff know as soon as possible.
There are ways of conducting family dispute resolution that do not involve being in the same room as the other party. However, the practitioner will need to have particular skills in conducting family dispute resolution in cases involving family violence.
If you have experienced abuse or violence from your ex-partner, it’s important that you feel safe and are safe before, during and after family dispute resolution.
In some cases it will not be appropriate to go ahead with family dispute resolution.
The family dispute resolution practitioner should discuss the options with you.
What happens to any agreement reached in family dispute resolution?
If you reach an agreement on arrangements for your child, this can be recorded as a parenting plan. To be recognised under the Family Law Act, a parenting plan must be in writing, dated and signed by both parents. Your agreement or parenting plan can include details on how the plan can be changed and how disagreements about the plan will be resolved. Agreements can be renegotiated over time, if necessary.
If you want to make your final parenting plan or financial agreement legally binding, you can apply to the court to have your agreement made into a consent order. You can do this yourself or ask your lawyer to do it for you. More information on Parenting Plans is available on Family Relationships Online.
What if no agreement is reached?
Even if you can’t reach agreement, family dispute resolution may help you communicate better and better manage areas where you disagree.
If you try family dispute resolution but still need to take your case to court, you will need a certificate from a registered family dispute resolution provider.
The certificate will say one of the following:
- the other party did not attend
- you and the other party attended and made a genuine effort to resolve the dispute
- you and the other party attended but one or both of you did not make a genuine effort to resolve it (eg by refusing to participate), or
- the family dispute resolution provider decided that your case was not appropriate for family dispute resolution.
Note: Party means the other person or person involved in the parenting dispute, for example your former partner.
What if I don’t attend or make a genuine effort?
If family dispute resolution is required in your case but:
you don’t attend, or
you don’t make a genuine effort to resolve the dispute
The court may:
- take this into account in deciding costs (you could be ordered to pay some or all of the other party’s legal costs), and/or
- order you and the other party to attend family dispute resolution.
What will it cost?
The cost of family dispute resolution depends on the provider.
Private providers set their own fees.
Family Relationship Centres provide up to three hours of family dispute resolution free but may charge fees if further sessions are needed. Family Relationship Centres and family dispute resolution services funded by the Australian Government are required to have a fees policy that takes into account the capacity of the client to pay. More information can be located on the Attorney Generals Department website.