Family Dispute Resolution


If you are involved in a legal dispute, using an alternative dispute resolution process can provide many benefits. Mediation can be used to resolve disputes concerning many areas of law and is particularly beneficial for family law matters.

Mediation involves a neutral person (the mediator) meeting face to face with the parties to a dispute and assisting them to reach a resolution. Meetings are generally confidential, and the mediator does not provide legal advice nor determine the dispute. The process is ideal when the parties are willing to negotiate in good faith and make genuine attempts to resolve the dispute.

Family Dispute Resolution

Family Dispute Resolution (FDR) is a form of mediation that supports separating and divorcing couples in resolving family disputes and reaching their own agreements about issues that arise from their separation.

With the support and guidance of an FDR practitioner – an independent and impartial accredited mediator appointed by both parties – family dispute resolution assists you and your partner in identifying issues, developing options, and making decisions without needing to go through the court.

We specialise in family dispute resolution. Andrew Corish is a trained and experienced FDR practitioner and accredited as a mediator in family law.

Do I need to attend FDR?

The Family Law Act stipulates that, unless exempt, separating or divorcing parents must attempt FDR before applying to the court for parenting orders.

Currently, there are no legal requirements to resolve property matters and financial issues prior to making an application to court, however FDR can be extremely beneficial in helping to resolve these types of matters.

Exemptions from attending FDR for parenting matters include circumstances where:

  • the parties are in the process of formalising consent orders;
  • a party is responding to an application (already filed in court);
  • the matter is urgent;
  • the matter involves issues of family violence or child abuse;
  • a person is unable to effectively participate due to incapacity or location;
  • a person has breached, or shown a serious disregard, to his or her obligations under an existing order made within the past 12 months.

What are the benefits of FDR?

FDR gives the parties a chance to improve their relationship and agree on important post-separation matters without expensive and exhaustive court proceedings. It is generally less stressful than court proceedings and enables the parties to explore meaningful options to resolve matters that are important to them.

Even if FDR does not resolve all matters arising from the breakdown of your relationship, it can assist in clarifying or narrowing the issues in dispute. 

What is the FDR Practitioner’s role?

The FDR practitioner assists the parties to identify the real areas in dispute and to cooperate in a positive manner while working through them. The FDR helps the parties to understand the process and what is being said or agreed upon.

When attending FDR, parties should make genuine efforts to resolve the issues in dispute and explore options for workable parenting arrangements that will be in the best interests of the children.

To facilitate the mediation, the FDR may speak independently to each party.

What happens when I attend Family Dispute Resolution?

  • Firstly, both you and your partner must agree to participate in the FDR process.
  • As your FDR practitioner, we then meet with you both separately to assess your situation.
  • During the confidential assessment, we help to identify the issues that need to be resolved.
  • We then arrange and facilitate one or more joint sessions either between you and your partner or also with your respective legal representatives involved.
  • In each joint session you are both given the opportunity to openly express your points of view.
  • We encourage and assist you to openly discuss the issues in dispute and consider different options to resolve those issues.
  • If agreements are reached, we assist you to enter into appropriate written Agreements and Consent Orders.

After an Agreement is reached

Agreements reached during the FDR process can be documented in a Parenting Plan or Consent Orders.

Parenting Plans are not legally enforceable however may be taken into consideration if a party subsequently applies to the court for a parenting order.

Consent Orders are legally binding. Although you will not need to attend court, the orders will have the same effect as an order made after a court hearing.

What if an Agreement is not reached?

If both parties attend FDR and the outcome is unsuccessful, the practitioner will either:

  • issue a certificate noting each parties’ attendance and verifying that each made a genuine attempt to resolve the dispute;
  • issue a certificate indicating that one party failed to attend, one or both parties failed to make a genuine attempt to resolve the dispute, or that FDR was not appropriate in the circumstances.

Failing to attend FDR (unless an exception applies) can result in a delayed resolution of your matter and adverse costs orders.

How much does FDR cost?

FDR is considered the quickest and most practical and cost-effective process for you and your family to resolve family disputes and reach a mutually suitable settlement.

The costs of attending FDR may depend on your financial circumstances but it is likely to be much less costly than attending court.

When you and your ex-partner are ready to participate in FDR, we will facilitate the process in a safe and supportive environment. We encourage open and honest communication to properly resolve the issues in dispute.

If you need any assistance, contact one of our North Sydney family lawyers at [email protected] or call 02 8075 0141 for a no-obligation discussion and for expert family law advice.