FAQ I Family Dispute Resolution
What is the role of the family mediator (family dispute resolution practitioner)?
The FDRP is impartial and has no vested interest in the outcome of a dispute between individuals. The FDRP assists in identifying the disputed issues and concerns, facilitates discussion that is future focused, encourages collaboration and exploration of concerns, brainstorm options, consider alternatives and endeavours to reach an agreement (Parenting Plan or Financial Agreement).
Who can attend family mediation (family dispute resolution)?
Those who are separating or thinking about separating from their partner and do/don’t have children.
What issues can be discussed?
Any parenting/grand-parenting, family, child-related, property and financial matters can be discussed.
Is family mediation (family dispute resolution) mandatory?
All individuals wanting to apply to the Family Court for a Parenting Order must first attempt to resolve their issues in FDR. If these issues cannot be resolved in a mediation process, then a certificate may be requested from an accredited family dispute resolution practitioner confirming that an attempt at family dispute resolution was made. This requirement applies to all applications, including those seeking changes to an existing parenting order. See Family Law Act 1975 S10H (4).
Can you still mediate if there is a Violence Restraining Order (VRO)?
You may still be required to attempt family dispute resolution despite having a VRO. A VRO does not necessarily make those protected under it exempt from attending family dispute resolution.
What happens in family mediation (family dispute resolution)?
Individual assessment (2 hours per session):
The mediator meets with each disputing party individually, where they will be given information about the mediation process. Each party will be asked a series of questions that helps build a picture of the current situation and any relevant background information. With this information, the mediator makes a decision as to how the joint mediation sessions are conducted (see “How is mediation conducted?”). This also assists the mediator in assessing the appropriateness of mediation.
If mediation is suitable, then a mediation session is offered to all parties involved.
Child focused sessions (1.5hrs) – optional
Whether you’ve separated or are in the process of separating, many of your needs and interests are going to be different from those of your child/ren. No one understands your children as well as you and in this session; a counsellor will meet with each of you individually, to help you to identify and separate those different interests and needs. With this information you may be better able to ensure you can focus on children’s issues, and that the children are not affected by any conflict that may arise from the separation.
Part of this process will be to offer you information about childhood development and needs, which may help you make important decisions relating to the children in a mediation process. Information will be given about the different styles of parenting after separation and to help you make choices about how to co-parent in the best way for you and your child/ren.
Mediation sessions (2.5 hours per session):
The mediator schedules a joint session, where all parties involved will be asked to attend. Parties are given an opportunity to share their individual perspective and concerns in a safe, structured environment. A discussion regarding each concern is encouraged, ideas and options are generated, and alternatives are considered, in the hopes of reaching a final agreement.
How is mediation conducted?
There are several approaches to how mediation sessions are conducted:
- Joint: The parties are present in the same room with the mediator. Confidential separate sessions (caucus) are provided to assist with negotiations.
- Shuttle: The parties are in different rooms of the building. The mediator “shuttles” information and parties’ statements back and forth between the parties.
It is ultimately the mediator’s decision as to how sessions are conducted.
What if mediation is not suitable?
The mediator continues to assess for suitably throughout the mediation process. If mediation is not suitable or is deemed “not appropriate” (parenting matters only), then the mediator informs all parties and provides information of other services that may assist in their circumstance. Upon request, a certificate may be issued to parties to include as part of their Parenting Order application in the Family Court.
How many mediation sessions will be necessary to reach an agreement?
Each mediation is unique!
Mediation is a process; hence, it may take a number of sessions (2.5 hours long each) to be able to achieve an outcome that is suitable to all parties. The number of sessions required depends on the complexities of the issues raised, the interaction between parties, and the amount of time that parties require to reach a suitable agreement. We offer sessions within several days of contacting our service, and close together; hence, mediation is usually a quicker service than litigation.
Preparing for family mediation (family dispute resolution)
Can I bring anyone or a support person to family mediation or family dispute resolution?
Due to the nature of the mediation process and the importance of maintaining a confidential service, involving others in the mediation is not encouraged. However, parties may discuss such a request during the initial assessment session.
Children, of any age, may not be present during mediation sessions. Support persons, legal professionals, and others such as advocates or case managers may be present with prior agreement of all parties. It is ultimately the mediator’s decision as to who will be present in a mediation session.
What do you need to bring to family mediation or family dispute resolution?
A copy of any Violence Restraining Order/s (VRO), Consent/Parenting Orders from the Family Court, Undertakings, or other legal documentation will be required during your initial assessment session.
It is not essential to bring other documentation with you for your initial consultation. You are welcome to bring whatever information, reports, etc. that you feel is necessary to discuss with the mediator during your initial assessment session. The mediator will provide a checklist and discuss what information and documents are required to bring to your mediation sessions.
Just bring yourselves!
Do you need to obtain legal advice?
The family dispute resolution practitioner/mediator does not give legal advice.
The mediator will ask all parties if they have received legal advice. It is your prerogative as to whether or not you receive legal advice from a Family Law professional. A Family Lawyer has extensive knowledge of the Family Law Act 1975, and may advise you of your particular situation, giving you information as to how to divide assets, what is considered regarding parenting/grand-parenting matters, and what your best outcome could look like. Each situation is unique, and the advice that you receive from a Family Lawyer may assist you in making an informed decision. This information may be presented and discussed further during your mediation sessions.
- Citizens Advice Bureau: (08) 9221 5711
- Legal Aid Info Line: 1300 650 579 TTY: 1800 241 216
- Legal Aid: (08) 9261 6253
- For recommended legal professionals, please contact us here
How can you best participate in family mediation or family dispute resolution?
The following tips may assist in preparing you for your mediation sessions:
- If you are discussing any children, please bring a picture of your child so that the mediator may glimpse your best achievement; and you may be reminded of the important decisions that you are making on behalf of your child/ren;
- Have a clear understanding of goals of mediation, what you would like to discuss, and what you consider as your best possible outcome;
- Be open to each other’s perspective, ideas for resolution, and alternatives;
- You will be asked to represent your own perspective and views, and not to speak on behalf of others;
- Speak without interruption;
- It is essential that all parties involved (including mediator) communicate and treat each other respectfully, i.e. avoiding personal attacks, do not use derogatory language, refer to each other by your given names, etc.;
- It is essential that you are open and honest at all times so that the mediator is able to provide you with a comprehensive and meaningful process. It is also a legal requirement (see Family Law Act 1975) to provide full disclosure. If you do not disclose relevant information, then any agreements reached may not be enforceable, i.e. lodged as Consent Orders with the Family Court;
- Mediation can evoke strong emotions. We ask that you attempt to put these feelings aside throughout the process so that you are able to focus on the bigger picture and working towards mutual agreement;
- You may wish to take the day off work, particularly if you manage heavy machinery. We often recommend a transition period before going back to work;
- Arrange sessions so that there is a period of time that passes before you pick up your child/ren from school/day-care/babysitting;
- You may wish to organise a relaxing activity directly before and/or after mediation. This may include an outdoor activity, meeting with a friend or counsellor.
What is the outcome of family mediation or family dispute resolution?
The family dispute resolution practitioner/mediator will write up any agreements reached in mediation. You may use this document when lodging a Consent Order application (Form 11) with the Family Court. See below.
What is a parenting plan?
A parenting plan is an agreement, which parents create to decide on how they will share the parenting of the child or children before, during or post separation. If you wish, this can be made into a Consent Order by completing a Form 11 application form and lodge this in the Family Court (see www.familycourt.wa.gov.au). You may also sign and date an agreement, which is not legally enforceable; however, it will be recognised by the Family Court.
A mediator can assist both parents to communicate openly and positively about all aspects of child-care and to develop a realistic plan to cover all practicalities. The plan can also include the role of grand-parents, other extended family members and formal child care facilities.
If you would like to have an attempt at making a parenting plan on your own, a template is available here.
What is a financial agreement?
You may create a financial agreement before, during or post separation. A financial agreement is a document that includes information about how you want your property and assets divided if you decide to separate. This can be made into a Consent Order by completing a Form 11 application form and lodge this in the Family Court (see www.familycourt.wa.gov.au and http://www.legalaid.wa.gov.au). If you wish to make this agreement into a Consent Order, then it is important that you seek legal advice from a Family Law professional.