Mandatory Family Dispute Resolution

Most separated parents reach parenting agreements relatively easily and informally – perhaps with the assistance of family lawyers and  mediators. The methods parents use to  reach agreements have a big impact on the quality of the agreement. Methods include mediation and family dispute resolution, and collaborative family law. Matthew Shepherd is a mediator and family dispute resolution practitioner and can help both parents reach good parenting agreements. Matthew is a trained collaborative practitioner and assist parents who choose to use collaborative family law.

In most cases, parents are obliged to attempt family dispute resolution (a special type of mediation) before applying to a court for parenting orders. This is to see if parents can reach their own agreement and avoid court. Matthew Shepherd is a family dispute resolution practitioner and can help separated parents engage in effective dispute resolution about their children.

To commence a court application for parenting orders, a parent must obtain a certificate from a family dispute resolution which will state one of the following:

  1. That the parent did not attend family dispute resolution due to the refusal or failure of the other party to attend.
  2. That the parent did not attend family dispute resolution because the family dispute resolution practitioner considered it not appropriate (for example due to issues of domestic violence or abuse etc).
  3. The person did attend family dispute resolution with the other party and that both made a genuine effort to resolve the issues.
  4. That the person did attend family dispute resolution but that they or the other party did not make a genuine effort to resolve the issues.

The certificate is not necessary for the commencement of Court proceedings in certain circumstances being:

  • Abuse of the child by one of the parties or risk of abuse if there was delay in applying for the Order.
  • Family violence on one of the parties or risk of family violence.
  • Urgency.
  • One of the parties is unable to participate effectively in family dispute resolution due to factors such as disability, physical remoteness etc.

Large government funded family relationship centres provide dispute resolution services to separated families and to issue the certificate if required. There are also private mediators who can do so. Private mediators cost more than a family relationship center but can often provide mediation more quickly and privately, and customise the process to meet the needs of the family.

Family dispute resolution practitioners are mediators assisting parents in reaching agreement. They are independent and neutral, and do not takes sides. They cannot force parents to reach agreements or to enter into parenting plans. They cannot give legal advice. Parenting arrangements (whether reflected in parenting plans or court orders or not) have financial ramifications on issues including on property settlements and child support.

Whilst family dispute resolution practitioners are independent, they have obligations prescribed by the Family Law Act including to advise parents that they should consider children spending equal time with each parent if it is reasonably practicable and in the best interests of the children, and if not, consider whether it is reasonably practicable and in the best interests of children to spend substantial and significant time with each of them. Further, they are required to inform parents they should consider entering into a parenting plan. Parenting plans are important documents that whilst not legally enforceable can override Parenting Orders in certain circumstances. They should only be entered into after careful consideration.

Getting the Best Results from Mediation and Dispute Resolution

Look at Matthew’s guide to getting the best results from mediation.

Most separated parents will continue to reach parenting agreements relatively easily and informally.

Parents who cannot agree are obliged (in most cases) to attend compulsory family dispute resolution before commencing court proceedings.

We provide mediation and family dispute resolution. For more information, see our pages on Mediation/Family Dispute Resolution.

 

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