Family Dispute Resolution

What is Family Dispute Resolution?

Under family law, parties must make a genuine effort to resolve disputes through family dispute resolution before applying to the courts.

Reaching an agreement with the other party offers many advantages, such as:

  • you make your own decisions.
  • you greatly reduce the financial and emotional costs of legal proceedings.
  • your continuing relationship as parents, if you have children, is likely to work better.
  • you are able to move forward and make a new life for yourself.
  • you may improve communication with your former partner and be better able to resolve disputes in the future.

Changes to the family law system are aimed at encouraging parents to develop cooperative parenting solutions without going to court. Family dispute resolution is a practical way for separating couples to try to resolve any disagreements and make arrangements for the future. The Family Law Amendment (Shared Parental Responsibility) Act 2006 aims to promote a culture of cooperation in Family Law matters, especially in relation to parenting issues.

Before an application for a parenting order can be filed, an applicant must provide a certificate with the application to the Court. This requirement applies even if you have pre-existing orders in relation to the child that is the subject of the current application.

A court will not be able to hear an application for a parenting order unless a certificate from an accredited Family Dispute Resolution practitioner is filed with the application. In certain circumstances, the court may grant you an exemption from the requirement to file a certificate.

Information on Family Dispute Resolution for parties

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Dispute Resolution in Children's Cases

Conciliation and mediation in children’s matters aims to assist couples who have made a decision to separate to reach mutually acceptable solutions for the future parenting arrangements for their children. Another goal is to help clients address and reduce conflict between them and improve their communication so that they can assist their children and continue parenting roles in a cooperative way.

Conciliation often involves addressing and resolving underlying emotional issues that impede adjustment to separation and interfere with the couple’s willingness to cooperate and reach decisions that are in the best interests of their children. Because the filing of documents and the adversarial nature of litigation can often sustain conflict, mediation at an early stage of litigation helps maximise the resolution of disputes.

Prior to filing an application, prospective parties are obliged to consider a number of matters, which include:

  • the need to protect the interests of children;
  • the importance of children having ongoing relationships;
  • the benefits children gain from parents cooperating;
  • the potential damage to a child involved in a dispute;
  • the impact of correspondence and the need to avoid hostile and inflammatory exchanges; and
  • the need to seek agreements and orders that are realistic and reasonable.

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Dispute Resolution in Financial Cases

The Family Court requires people intending to apply for financial orders to follow pre-action procedures, including attending dispute resolution, before filing an application. There are some exceptions to these requirements, such as those involving family violence, fraud or urgency.

In the Federal Circuit Court, parties intending to apply for financial orders are encouraged to resolve disputed issues before filing an application. In most cases, parties will be ordered to attend family dispute resolution when an application is filed with the Court.

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