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Family Law - Court-Based Family Dispute Resolution

Amanda Quin - Thursday, February 04, 2021

Blog post by Geraldyne Keen - Email:

Court-Based Family Dispute Resolution

For separated parties/parents it is well known that the Family Law Courts require you to participate in Family Dispute Resolution (FDR) before making an application the Court. However, the Court also has the power to refer parties to FDR under s 13C(1)(b) of the Family Law Act 1975 when it considers it safe and appropriate for all parties to participate meaningfully.

Prior to December 2020, parties were referred to external providers such as Legal Aid or family relationship centres (e.g. Interrelate). From December 2020 the Family Court of Australia and Federal Circuit Court of Australia have introduced an internal Court-based FDR program which is assisted by a Register and where appropriate a Family Consultant (an expert in child development matters).

What to expect?

The Court can make an Order for the parties to attend FDR any time during the proceedings. The FDR conference will either take place over a full day or half day. The FDR operates similarly to an external mediation, however it involves a Registrar and sometimes a Family Consultant as mediators.

All negotiations are confidential (unless threats of immediate harm to a person or child are made). The Registrar and Family Consultant assist the parties to help reach an agreement, they do not make any decisions on the matter.

Two-part process:

Part 1: This part involves an initial teleconference with the Registrar who will explain the process, the next steps and what to expect.

Part 2: This part involves the actual FDR conference which includes identifying the issues to be addressed, negotiating (either together or by shuttle) and documenting the agreement.

Who attends?

The Registrar, Family Consultant, parties, legal representatives and the Independent Children’s Lawyer (if appointed).

What happens if an agreement is/ is not reached?

If an agreement has been reached, the Orders will be drafted and the Registrar can formally make the Final Orders. You will not be required to appear before the Judge and your matter will be finalised.

If no agreement is reached, then your matter will return before the Judge and continue through the Court process.