Family dispute resolution

What Happens During Compulsory Family Dispute Resolution?

  |   Family Law

Separating can be a difficult time for everyone and there can often be conflict and disagreements, especially over issues like childcare, child support, financial arrangements and property settlement. Sometimes these disputes can be resolved between the parties, and at other times they can’t.


If you and your partner are separating and there are issues concerning your children that you just can’t reach agreement on, you may be required to attend compulsory family dispute resolution before you can take the matter up in court.


What is compulsory family dispute resolution?


Family dispute resolution is a form of mediation which seeks to involve a third party to help parents reach an agreement that is in the best interests of their child so they can parent co-operatively after separation.


Sometimes parents choose to attend family dispute resolution voluntarily so they can try to find a way to settle their differences of opinion without having to go to court. If you do wish to apply for a parenting order in court, or make changes to an existing parenting order, it is a requirement that you first undergo family dispute resolution.


What happens in family dispute resolution?


Family dispute resolution is most commonly undertaken in the case of couples with children who are separating, but it can also be entered into when disputing property and financial settlements.


Although it is not a counselling session, a family dispute resolution session involves the parties discussing their situation with a qualified and experienced practitioner who can facilitate more effective communication. The idea behind it is that having a supportive atmosphere and a means of effective communication can help the parties involve discuss their issues and find a mutually satisfactory solution.


Family dispute practitioners are not lawyers, but they usually have a sound understanding of family law and can help people who are separating apply the general principles of family law to their situation. The exact process will vary from practitioner to practitioner, and will also depend on the clients’ circumstances and the nature of their dispute.


Generally, a session will involve both parties listening to each other without interrupting, identifying the main issues which need resolving, exploring different options and testing potential solutions. Children may be involved in the session or have a separate interview with the practitioner if appropriate, so that a decision can be made taking the child’s needs into consideration.


If a decision is agreed upon it may be put in writing during the session. Decisions made in a family dispute resolution session are not legally binding.


If no resolution is reached at the compulsory family dispute resolution session, the matter will then proceed to court.


What are the benefits of family dispute resolution?


Family dispute resolution has a number of benefits for participants, notably that it is less costly and quicker than going through the courts. Participating in family dispute resolution sessions can also help facilitate ongoing positive relationships between separated couples, which may help them communicate and co-operate better as parents in the future.


It is also believed that family dispute resolution is less stressful for participants than appearing in court, and that if they have a part in the decision-making process, they are more likely to stick to their agreements than if conditions are imposed on them without their control.


When is compulsory family dispute resolution not appropriate?


There are a few circumstances under which a separating couple won’t be required to undergo family dispute resolution before a court application. These include situations involving allegations of child abuse or family violence, or if it is an urgent matter.


If you are separating and having difficulty agreeing on the terms it may be worth speaking to a family lawyer. Contact us today to discuss your situation and find out what we can do to help.