Family Dispute Resolution

Family Dispute Resolution is a process by which people in conflict can be helped to communicate with each other about what is important for them and how to make decisions about resolving their dispute.

Family Dispute Resolution (FDR) is now compulsory, in the sense that people who wish to go to court to resolve disputes in relation to their children (parenting matters), are now required to first attend FDR, and make a 'genuine effort' to resolve their disputes. Some exceptions to this requirement apply - for example, in situations involving family violence or child abuse, or in urgent matters.

Family Dispute Resolution Practitioners provide clients with a supportive atmosphere and a method of talking to one another, to assist them to sort out the issues and come up with acceptable solutions, and make mutually satisfactory agreements.

The family dispute resolution process involves:
• the parties listening to each other's point of view without interruption
• identifying issues which need to be resolved
• sharing of relevant information
• exploring ideas and options
• testing possible solutions
• putting decisions and agreements in writing.

The Role of Family Dispute Resolution Practitioners

Family Dispute Resolution Practitioners are highly-skilled people from a variety of professional backgrounds, such as law and the social sciences. They are trained in resolving disputes relating to families. The expertise of family dispute resolution practitioners allows for a diverse range of disputes to be dealt with, broadly relating to children, finance or property matters.

Family Dispute Resolution Practitioners can either work alone or with another practitioner. They do not give legal advice but will explore general principles that apply to couples who are separating. They may give advice in relation to children and parenting matters, focusing on 'the best interests of the child'.

The Family Dispute Resolution Practitioners are impartial and even-handed. They control the process, not the content that is discussed, and they maintain the confidentiality of the process, subject to limitations established in law. They are solution and future-focused in helping the parties resolve their dispute. The practitioners ensure that everybody agrees to the decisions being made.

What can participants expect?

Family Dispute Resolution is facilitated by an independent third party and decisions made are not legally binding. Everyone gets the opportunity to express his or her own point of view and is free to talk about issues of concern, with everyone present.

Participants must be willing to listen to the other party and be genuinely willing to negotiate and commit to reaching a solution and considering a compromise. Participants must be prepared to follow the process. 


Family Dispute Resolution has a number of benefits. For instance, it:
• saves money and delays, because it is cheaper and quicker than the Court process.
• promotes co-operation and improves communication that can enhance an ongoing relationship which assists parenting and other relationships.
• provides a structure in which future disputes can be resolved more readily.
• maintains an individual's control in the decision-making process: there are no imposed decisions.
• is generally less stressful or traumatic than court proceedings.
• is a more effective means of conflict resolution: people are less likely to breach agreements that they have made themselves.


The alternatives to Family Dispute Resolution are:
• do nothing
• continue the conflict
• seek the assistance of friends in resolving the dispute
• seek Arbitration, which is a less formal legal process to resolve the dispute than going to Court
• instruct lawyers to negotiate agreements on your behalf
• commence court proceedings
• resolve the issues yourselves, without professional assistance.

If you want to make an appointment to see a family dispute resolution practitioner or find out more about family dispute resolution, contact the Relationships Australia office nearest you.

Family Dispute Resolution Certificates
If you want to apply to the court for a parenting order you will need a certificate from a registered family dispute resolution practitioner to confirm that an attempt at family dispute resolution was made.

All Relationships Australia practitioners are registered. To find your nearest Relationships Australia practitioner, contact us.

There are some exceptions to the requirement for a certificate, including cases involving family violence or child abuse. For more information visit the Australian Government's Family Relationships Online website at

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