If you are going through separation or divorce and would like to sort out your family dispute issues relating to your children and/or property, you may first wish to try Family Dispute Resolution to mediate the matter before going to Court. You should seek mediation which falls under the purview of Family Dispute Resolution (“FDR”).
In a mediation process, a neutral party or a dispute resolution practitioner known as a Mediator is appointed to:
(a) help the parties to solve their dispute;
(b) discuss their problems; and
(c) find possible solutions acceptable to both the parties and thereby reach a mutual settlement.
The Family Law Act 1975 emphasise the need to use community based family relationship services for the parties who would like to settle their disputes after separation or divorce.
The FDR process enables:
(a) the parties to listen to each other’s view point without any interruption;
(b) identify the issues which need to be resolved;
(c) the parties to share relevant information;
(d) identify new ideas and other existing options;
(e) check alternate solutions; and
(f) put decisions and agreements in writing.
FDR services can be availed from a range of FDR centres including Family Relationship Centres, Legal Aid Commissions and Community Organisations.
An accredited FDR practitioner is an independent person who helps people affected by separation or divorce to resolve their disputes. These practitioners meet the accreditation standards as set out in the Family Law (Family Dispute Resolution Practitioners) Regulations 2008.
You may file an application before the Court for an Order pursuant to Part VII of the Family Law Act 1975 regarding disputes relating to your children or for Parenting Orders. Such an application can be filed only after obtaining a Certificate from an accredited FDR practitioner.
You should acquire a Certificate from an accredited FDR practitioner even if you have a pre-existing Order in relation to your children and that the subject matter of the pre-existing Order is same as that your present application.
Following are the circumstances under which you can seek an exemption from providing a Certificate pursuant to Section 60I(9) of the Family Law Act 1975:
(a) urgent matter;
(b) if the Court is satisfied that there are reasonable grounds to believe that:
(i) there has been child abuse and/or family violence by your ex-partner;
(ii) there is a risk of family violence by your ex-partner; and/or
(iii) there is a risk of child abuse if there is a delay in applying to the Court.
(c) if your ex-partner is unable to participate effectively in the FDR process due to an incapacity or physical remoteness from the FDR centre or practitioner; or
(d) if your application relates to an alleged contravention of an existing Order that was made within the last 12 months and there are reasonable grounds to believe that the person who has allegedly contravened the Order has behaved in a way that shows a serious disregard for his/her obligations under that Order.
If your ex-partner does not object, a family member or a support person can accompany you during the FDR process. If you plan to bring your lawyer along with you to the FDR centre, you need to get prior approval from the centre.
If an agreement is reached through a FDR process you can either enter into a Parenting Plan with your ex-partner or you can make an application to the Court for Consent Orders to reflect your agreement. Depending on the nature of your relationship with your ex-partner it may be preferable to apply for Consent Orders as these are enforceable if contravened. It may be preferable to apply for Consent Orders because these are more easily enforced.
If you have any queries in relation to the FDR process or would like to speak to one of our lawyers, please contact our Family Law team at WMD Law who can guide you through this process.