When a couple with children (whether married or not) separate and parenting arrangements need to be put in place, the Family Law Act states that, in most cases, parties must attempt mediation (known as Family Dispute Resolution or “FDR”) before they apply to the Court for parenting orders.
At Hosking Legal, we do not believe that FDR is just a step on the way to court proceedings. Mediation is an effective way for you to resolve differences and reach an outcome that is best for your child or children. There are great advantages to reaching an agreement about parenting orders at a Family Dispute Resolution Conference. These advantages include:
- You will have a resolution much earlier than if your matter proceeds to court
- You can have a strong voice in the outcome of the parenting orders made to suit your circumstances, rather than having parenting orders imposed on you by the court
- You will save substantial amounts in legal costs
When Hosking Legal represents you at a Family Dispute Resolution Conference, we will take detailed instructions and give you realistic advice before you attend the conference. We will work actively at the conference in order to attempt to resolve the case to your satisfaction. We understand that the end of a relationship where children are involved is a stressful and emotional experience. We will act sensitively in assisting you to reach the best outcome for your particular circumstances.
What is a Family Dispute Resolution Conference?
A Family Dispute Resolution Conference is a conference run by an independent mediator. The mediator is an accredited Family Dispute Resolution Practitioner who has completed specific training to assist people with discussions about issues relating to children.
Usually the parents of the child (and their legal representatives if they have one) are present at the conference. Sometimes other people, such as grandparents and other relatives who have taken on a significant caregiver role in a child’s life, may also be invited to the conference.
Conferences are often conducted ‘face to face’ where the parties, their legal representatives and the mediator are all in the same room. In some matters, a different format might be appropriate. For example, if one parent is in Queensland and the other is in New South Wales, then a telephone conference might be more suitable and cost effective. Sometimes for reasons of personal safety and security, a party may prefer to attend by phone or be in a different room.
Is mediation compulsory?
It is a requirement that parties attempt FDR before they apply to the court for parenting orders. There are some exceptions to this rule. For example, if an application is made in circumstances of urgency, or if there is evidence of family violence by one of the parties, you may be able to seek an exemption from attending the conference. Hosking Legal can provide advice on whether or not you have grounds to seek an exemption from attending a conference.
How do I organise a Family Dispute Resolution Conference?
Hosking Legal will provide you with a list of locally available Family Dispute Resolution Practitioners and advise you of their fees and availability. Hosking Legal will then communicate with the mediator to organise the conference. This can usually be done within a few weeks depending on availabilities.
How long will the Conference take?
We usually set aside about 3-4 hours for a Family Dispute Resolution Conference. Sometimes conferences conclude earlier than this, for example, if it becomes clear that the parties’ positions cannot be reconciled or if an agreement in principle is quickly reached.
In the event that the parties need extra time, it is possible to ask the mediator if they will continue past the 3-4 hour mark. However, in some cases it can be preferable to organise a second Family Dispute Resolution Conference. Family Dispute Resolution Conferences can be highly emotional and stressful because they centre around the most important people in your life. Sometimes it can be beneficial to take some time and come back to a second conference after everyone has had time to rest and reflect.
What happens at the Family Dispute Resolution Conference?
The conference is conducted in an informal manner and parties are encouraged to speak for themselves, although they can ask their lawyers to speak for them or to assist them with some matters. Each party will be given opportunities to have their say about the parenting arrangements they think are best for the child or children.
There will usually be breaks during the conference itself for parties to consider what has been said by others, and to seek further legal advice.
As a general rule, the things said at the conference remain confidential and cannot be used subsequently in any court proceedings. This is to encourage parties to speak freely and try to reach agreement without fear of damaging their prospects if the case goes to a contested hearing.
What happens if you reach an agreement at the Conference?
If you reach an agreement at the conference about the arrangements for your child or children, that agreement can be written in the form of parenting orders, or alternatively a parenting plan. There are important differences between these documents. We can provide you with advice about the advantages and disadvantages of each, and advise which format is most appropriate for your individual circumstances.
What happens if you don’t reach an agreement at the Conference?
If you do not reach an agreement at the conference, the mediator may issue each party with a section 60I certificate. A section 60I certificate is a document that says you have attempted mediation. This certificate must then be filed with any application lodged at court seeking parenting orders. For further information on court proceedings for parenting orders, you can look at our parenting orders page.
If you would like to speak with one of our solicitors about representation at a Family Dispute Resolution Conference, please contact our office to book an appointment.