Except in certain circumstances, all Court applicants seeking Parenting Orders must undergo three hours of compulsory family mediation, known as Family Dispute Resolution (FDR) before any application to the Court is made.
There are two avenues to pursue this:
- Via the Federally funded Family Relationship Centres (FRC)
- Via private mediation by an approved facilitator
The FRC are located around Australia and generally inconvenient geographic locations that service a local community – the closest FRC to our offices would be in Penrith or Blacktown.
The FRC has a standard intake process and waiting times can be quite long. They also request that any applicant undergo a short course and watch a video prior to the first session. In some cases, applicants are not deemed suitable for mediation and will be advised accordingly.
Private family mediations are ones that are paid for up-front. Our firm can recommend the services of several mediators who charge from approximately $550 for each party for a three hour session. If we are requesting to mediate, but unsure whether the other side will participate, an initial payment of approximately $320 is made to confirm the place. The other party is then invited to participate, if they chose to do so, the balance of your fee is then paid for the three hour family mediation (and the other party will pay their fee in full).
The benefit of this type of mediation is that it can generally be arranged within two to four weeks. At the completion of the session a Certificate will be issued.
What is a Certificate?
A Certificate is issued in accordance with section 60I of the Family Law Act. This is a certificate that is filed with any court application to indicate that Family Dispute Resolution has been attempted, and the outcome of that mediation. In cases where Family Dispute Resolution and mediation has been deemed not suitable, or the other party refuses to participate, the Certificate will indicate this.
Legal Aid Conference
The Legal Aid Commission provides funding for suitable applicants to participate in conferencing. This type of family dispute resolution is recommended by the Commission prior to any grants being awarded to proceed to Court.
The Commission funds the solicitor to attend with the client. In the past, our firm has found these conferences to be extremely beneficial for clients in reaching agreements and there is a very high success rate reported in reaching agreements. At the conclusion of a conference by Legal Aid a section 60I Certificate can be issued on request of either party.
If funding is provided for a conference then the Legal Aid Commission will invite the other party or parties to participate. There is no compulsion on anyone to attend a conference, although if a party is legally aided (or applies to be legally aided) then they will need to provide a compelling argument as to why they should not attend a conference if they wish to obtain any ongoing funding.
Conferences are generally not conducted when matters involve allegations of physical or emotional violence or abuse of children. However, conferences can still occur via telephone or shuttle conferences, meaning the parties do not conference in the same room.
Legal Aid Conferences have a chairperson who is the mediator for the conference. The chairperson/s does not tell you what to do or give you advice or even their opinion of what will happen if your matter went to Court. Their role is to control the mediation and ensure that all parties are safe and comfortable.
The Conference is confidential. Each person who participates in the conference signs and is bound by a Confidentiality Agreement which precludes evidence being given of anything said or done at a conference. The confidentiality of the process allows all parties to clearly consider their “best and worst” outcomes and to “reality test” those outcomes (i.e. to consider how realistic it may be that they will achieve what they want if they go to Court).
If agreement is reached then terms of Settlement will usually be prepared and signed by all parties at the conference. Legal Aid funding is then provided to enable Consent Orders to be obtained from the Court.
At the end of the Conference the Chairperson reports back to the Legal Aid Commission and recommends whether funding should continue. They also advise of any agreement that has been reached.