Compulsory Family Dispute Resolution is a form of alternative dispute resolution, like mediation, where parents who are in a disagreement or dispute about parenting arrangements, participate in a dispute resolution process and make a genuine effort to resolve the dispute.  

What is the purpose of family dispute resolution?

The purpose of the family dispute resolution process is to reach an agreement about parenting arrangements for your children without having to apply to the Court to determine the issue for you. 

How does family dispute resolution work?

Generally, one person invites the other to participate, the other accepts and then both people make appointments for intake sessions with their chosen FDR practitioner. Following the intake sessions, a date is set for a dispute resolution conference. Both parents attend and the FDR practitioner helps them reach an agreement, taking all circumstances into account. 

What are the benefits of FDR?

The FDR process is a child-focused process. It is also low-conflict compared to court proceedings. Reaching an agreement usually works well for both parents rather than having a decision imposed upon them by a third party in Court that both may not agree with. 

The main benefits of FDR include:

  • It is usually quicker, less expensive, and less stressful than going to court. 
  • It enables you to make your own decisions, rather than having a judge decide the outcome for you, which can make the agreement reached easier to live with. 
  • It may help improve communication with your former partner and anyone else involved.
  • It may give you information or insight into the other parent and their concerns that you might not have been previously aware of.
  • You can return to family dispute resolution if agreements break down at different stages, and as situations change.

Finding an FDR Practitioner

A compulsory family dispute resolution practitioner is usually someone such as a lawyer, psychologist, or social worker who has undertaken an approved course to achieve the necessary qualifications under Australian law to issue Family Dispute Resolution Certificates. 

Search for an FDR practitioner on the Family Dispute Resolution Register. Each state’s Law Society can provide you with a list of family dispute resolution practitioners in your local area. Alternatively, you can search online. 

When is FDR appropriate?

FDR is appropriate in situations where there are no allegations of child abuse, substance abuse, neglect, sexual abuse, or serious family violence. It is inappropriate where any of these are the predominant factors in the dispute.

What if it doesn’t work?

In cases where FDR doesn’t work, you can try again or apply to the Court to decide for you. 

What is the purpose of compulsory FDR?

Compulsory family dispute resolution has a range of purposes. For example, it is used to help with disputes about children and parenting, whom a child lives with, how much time a child spends with a parent, schooling, religious education, medical decisions regarding children, and so on.

Typically, only the primary caregivers or parents are involved, but other adults who are important to the children, such as grandparents, aunts, and uncles, can also participate. 

How does compulsory FDR work?

The steps of compulsory FDR include:

  1. An interview with each partner during an intake session.
  2. A case assessment by the FDR practitioner.
  3. A date for a dispute resolution session (the conference/mediation) is scheduled.
  4. The dispute resolution session (the conference/mediation) takes place.

The case assessments, intake sessions, and dispute resolution sessions are conducted by an independent family dispute resolution practitioner. They are there to help you to discuss the issues and look at your options.  The more relevant information you give during your intake, the more the practitioner may be able to help you resolve your dispute.

The process is child-focused and aims to help parents work with an independent qualified person to reach the best child-focused agreement possible for the child. 

If an agreement cannot be reached at the end of the process, you will receive a certificate that allows either party to commence proceedings for parenting arrangements. 


What is FDR in family court? 

If you are already in court proceedings, and regardless of whether or not you have already participated in compulsory family dispute resolution, a judicial officer will usually direct both parties to participate in court-based or private compulsory family dispute resolution at an early stage of proceedings. This will likely be the second time you engage in FDR. The procedure is much the same as participating prior to court proceedings.

What is the meaning of family disputes?

A family dispute is any dispute involving arrangements for a child or children and/or parental responsibility regarding the child.