Family dispute resolution is a process that seeks to resolve family conflict arising from divorce and separation-related matters such as child custody and property settlement. In Australia, couples are required to attend family dispute resolution before taking child custody matters in court. Below is a short guide on the family dispute resolution process.
The primary objective of family dispute resolution is to create dialogue and restore a working relationship among couples that wish to separate. It is more effective, faster and cheaper compared to court hearings. Besides, it gives partners control over the final decision. The process also creates a structure under which to resolve all kinds of disputes relating to the marriage. Once they realise the effectiveness of the process, it is unlikely that they will go to court before attempting dialogue.
An accredited family dispute resolution practitioner facilitates family dispute resolution. You can find a registered practitioner by checking the family dispute resolution register. Both parties must be willing to attend the mediation conference. If one partner does not attend, the dispute will be resolved in court.
At the conference, the couple will receive counselling to help them understand that divorce and separation can be a mentally draining process. The counselling process also helps them realise that they are equal partners in the marriage. Couples are encouraged to reconcile and work on ensuring that their children receive the best parenting care.
The dispute resolution process will identify the following:
- The cause of the dispute. For instance, you may agree on how to share other property, but you cannot decide who takes the family home.
- Information sharing. Each party will present factual information to the mediator without interruption from the other party.
- Exploration of reasonable solutions. Typically, each party will give suggestions. It allows the mediator to find common ground. The mediator will suggest how to resolve the matter. Parties may or may not agree with the mediator's suggestions. If they agree, the solutions are re-examined and tested to ensure they are fair to both parties.
- The parties will then write a legally binding agreement.
The practitioner will also present a family dispute resolution certificate. The document can be used in the family court to change the terms of parenting or consent orders.
You may need legal advice if you are afraid for your safety and that of your children during the family dispute resolution process. This happens if you have an abusive or controlling spouse. If this is the case, the lawyer can make an application at the family court that enables you to bypass the family dispute resolution conference.