What is Family Dispute Resolution (FDR)?

Family Dispute Resolution is a mediation that specifically helps families resolve issues concerning parenting and property:

  • Where the children will live
  • How much time they will spend with family
  • How you will communicate and
  • How property will be divided.


Do I need to attend?

Under the Family Law Act 1975, Family Dispute Resolution is compulsory (exceptions apply) prior to commencing court proceedings in relation to parenting. The idea for this is the court wants parents to make decisions regarding the parenting of their children rather than a judge. We are also seeing more often that courts are referring parents back to mediation even when proceedings are on foot.


Safety Assessment: Regulation 25

Before FDR can occur your mediator must assess whether your matter is suitable.


Regulation 25 specifies:

Family dispute resolution practitioners — assessment of family dispute resolution suitability

  1. Before providing family dispute resolution under the Act, the family dispute resolution practitioner to whom a   dispute is referred must be satisfied that:
    1. an assessment has been conducted of the parties to the dispute; and
    2. family dispute resolution is appropriate.


  1. In determining whether family dispute resolution is appropriate, the family dispute resolution practitioner must be satisfied that consideration has been given to whether the ability of any party to negotiate freely in the dispute is affected by any of the following matters:
    1. a history of family violence (if any) among the parties;
    2. the likely safety of the parties;
    3. the equality of bargaining power among the parties;
    4. the risk that a child may suffer abuse;
    5. the emotional, psychological and physical health of the parties;
    6. any other matter that the family dispute resolution practitioner considers relevant to the proposed family dispute resolution.
  2. If, after considering the matters set out in subregulation (2), the family dispute resolution practitioner is satisfied that family dispute resolution is appropriate then, subject to regulations 28 and 30, the family dispute resolution practitioner may provide family dispute resolution.


What happens in FDR

There are different ways a FDR mediation can be conducted, including:

  • A joint session with all parties in the same room
  • A shuttle, where the parties are in separate rooms and the mediator travels to both rooms
  • Telephone conference
  • Shuttle telephone
  • Online
  • Flexible locations
  • Legally assisted this is when your lawyer is present


As a general guide Family Dispute Resolution mediations are scheduled for three hours.


The Mediation Format:

  • Mediator’s obligations
  • Agreement on how the parties are going to conduct themselves
  • Opening Statements
  • Mediator feedbacks the opening statement
  • Agenda is formulated
  • Work through the agenda items


Common Agenda Items

Things to consider that might come up at a FDR mediation include:

  • Communication
  • The children’s living arrangements
  • How will you change-over?
  • Special Occasions such as Birthdays, Father’s and Mother’s Day
  • Education and after school activities
  • Travel
  • Re-location
  • Decision-making
  • Health


Benefits of FDR

Mediation has many benefits for individuals, families and businesses including:

  • Confidential
  • Cost effective
  • Non-adversarial
  • Future focused
  • Decision making is in your hands
  • Faster than court


Things to keep in mind:

  • Contact is important!
    • Contact with both parents is considered to be the right of the child. Continuing contact with a parent not living with the child is an important part of a child’s emotional and psychological development
  • Common goals for your children
    • Realise that despite your separation you still share common goals for your children (ie. happiness and success). Your children will benefit if, when problems arise, you are able to cooperate with each other.
  • Keep Positive
    • Children should be able to feel that both parents are positive about their time with the other parent.