Family law mediation, also known as Family Dispute Resolution, is a process option available to parents to try to negotiate post separation parenting arrangements that are in the best interest of their children. It also encourages separating couples to parent cooperatively, rather than through other process options such as Court that can create conflict.
Since 2006, it has been a requirement under the Family Law Act that separated couples attend, and make a genuine effort to resolve their parenting dispute through mediation before they are able to ask the Court to make parenting Orders. There are exceptions to this however, including:
- Circumstances of urgency, such as your child spending no time with you;
- There has been, or there is a risk of, family violence; or
- There has been abuse of the child, or there is a risk of abuse.
If the mediation is run by an authorised Family Dispute Resolution Practitioner, they can then issue a certificate that allows you to file an Application in Court if you can’t reach an agreement and have either attempted mediation or fall under one of the exceptions.
The Family Court outline their objectives in making mediation compulsory as a first step for parenting matters as being to:
- “encourage early and full disclosure through the exchange of information and documents about the prospective case.
- help people resolve their differences quickly and fairly, and to avoid legal action where possible. This will limit costs and hopefully avoid the need to start a court case.
- help parties (where an agreement cannot be reached out of court) to identify the real issues in dispute. This should help reduce the time involved and the cost of the case.
- encourage parties to seek only those orders that are realistic and reasonable on the evidence.”
Mediation is just one of the many options available to help you to come to an agreement about parenting matters, and avoid Court.
We have qualified mediators and lawyers trained specifically in assisting parties in the mediation process, so please contact our team if you are thinking about exploring mediation as a process for coming to agreement about your parenting arrangements.
[i] For more information see: http://www.familycourt.gov.au/wps/wcm/connect/fcoaweb/reports-and-publications/publications/getting-ready-for-court/before-you-file-pre-action-procedure-for-parenting-cases-(prescribed-brochure)
Courtney Mullen is a lawyer specialising in Family Law, Wills, Estate Planning and Estate Litigation at Farrar Gesini Dunn, Canberra Office.