Do I Need To Attend Family Dispute Resolution?

29 June, 2022

In family law disputes, dispute resolution is designed to assist you and the other party to reach an agreement. This may avoid the need for litigation completely or may settle a matter without the need for a costly and stressful trial. There are many advantages to you to resolve your matter by way of mediation or family dispute resolution including the assistance of a neutral third party and reduced legal costs. Your lawyer can attend your mediation or family dispute resolution event with you in most circumstances.

Family Dispute Resolution
Family Dispute Resolution (FDR) is guided by an FDR practitioner as a neutral third party. In parenting matters, it is compulsory for you to attend an FDR conference before filing an application for parenting orders with the Court. There are limited exemptions including if:

  • You are applying for Consent Orders
  • Your matter is urgent
  • There has been, or is a risk of child abuse or family violence
  • One person cannot participate effectively

For property matters, you are required to make a genuine effort to resolve your dispute prior to filing an application with the Court. This may be through FDR or other alternative ways of dispute resolution.

Unless an exemption applies, each party must make a genuine effort to resolve the dispute before commencing court proceedings through dispute resolution by:

  • giving a copy of the pre-action procedures to the other party/ies;
  • making inquiries about the dispute resolution services available to assist with resolving your dispute;
  • inviting the other party/ies to participate in dispute resolution with an agreed person or organisation, where it is safe to do so;
  • cooperating with the other party/ies to agree on an appropriate dispute resolution service;
  • participating in dispute resolution with the other party/ies; and
  • providing written notice to the other party/ies of your intention to start proceedings in the Court.

If you are given a written notice, you must respond within the timeframe indicated in the notice.

If proceedings are required, the Court facilitates dispute resolution events with the assistance of Judicial Registrars and Court Child Experts to attempt to resolve the disputes. They may also refer a matter to private mediation or arbitration (by agreement between the parties).


You can choose to attend a private mediation at any time during your family law matter. The mediation will be facilitated by a neutral third party, who may be an experienced family lawyer or Barrister. As with all forms of dispute resolution, the process is confidential so parties can freely discuss their position and proposed resolution.

Once court proceedings have commenced, you may be ordered to attend a private mediation before your matter can progress through the Court. At a mediation, each party will put forward offers to settle the issues in dispute. You will be required to consider these offers and determine with the assistance of your lawyer whether to agree to the offer or put forward a counter-offer.

Conciliation Conference

A conciliation conference is a court-based form of mediation run by a Registrar of the Court. This is designed to provide people with access to dispute resolution conference who may otherwise not be able to access mediation. When determining whether you are eligible for a conciliation conference, the court will take into account:

  • Each parties’ income and expenses
  • Whether either party is funded by legal aid or privately represented
  • The issues in dispute

What happens after I attend a dispute resolution conference?

If you attend a Conciliation Conference or Family Dispute Resolution Conference and are able to reach an agreement, the Registrar is able to make enforceable Orders on the same day. An agreement reached at any other form of dispute resolution conference will require a parenting plan or Application for Consent Orders to be filed with the Court for the Court to consider if the proposed orders are just and equitable (for property matters) or in the children’s best interests (for parenting matters) before the agreement is made into binding enforceable court orders.

Where you are unable to reach an agreement, you may be required to commence court proceedings in the Federal Circuit and Family Court of Australia. If your matter has already commenced proceedings, under the Family Law Rules each party is required to make a genuine offer of settlement within 28 days of the dispute resolution conference.

If you need advice or assistance with mediation or Family Dispute Resolution, contact our office today to discuss how we can help you and your family to resolve your family law dispute.

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