Frequently Asked Questions About Family Dispute Resolution (FDR)

Who conducts FDR?  button to return to top of page

FDR is conducted by an accredited Family Dispute Resolution Practitioner (FDRP) who acts as a mediator between the parties.

Who can use FDR?  button to return to top of page

FDR is open to any two parties who are or have been in a personal relationship (married or de facto) and that relationship is ending or has ended, and they have a disagreement about parenting arrangements of their children or the splitting of their property.

What are the advantages of FDR?  button to return to top of page

The FDR process typically costs far less than a court hearing. There may be 2 to 4 2½-hour sessions, costing from $1500 each, compared with a hearing in the Federal Circuit Court or the Family Court where costs can be as much as $40,000 per day. FDR can usually be arranged to take place within weeks, whereas there can be a delay of more than a year to get a matter to court.

The FDR process is designed to allow the parties in dispute to discuss the issues involved with the FDRP helping them to hopefully be able to negotiate an outcome that is acceptable to both.

The FDRP’s role is to facilitate this process. The FDRP does not act as a judge or adjudicator and will not take sides, or decide which party is right or wrong.

In FDR, both parties are in control of the outcome, while the result of a court or tribunal hearing is determined by the judge. Even the successful party in a court case can end up still having to pay substantial legal fees.

A settlement will only result if both parties freely agree.

What is the role of the FDRP?  button to return to top of page

The FDRP is an independent professional (an accredited Family Dispute Resolution Practitioner) who uses their skills to assist two disputing parties to negotiate an outcome that is acceptable to both parties.

The FDRP is in charge of the conduct of the FDR and can direct the behaviour of the parties.

The FDRP cannot give legal, financial, psychological or spiritual advice to the parties.

(see Rules of Mediation)

What happens after I first contact the mediator?  button to return to top of page

The mediator will ask you for the contact details of your ex-partner. He will then contact your ex-partner (usually by email), tell them that you have suggested mediation and ask that they contact the mediator to discuss whether they are willing to mediate. If your ex-partner is willing to mediate, the mediator will communicate with both of you to arrange times for him to have an initial one-on-one intake session with each of you.

Can I force another person to attend FDR?  button to return to top of page

No, you can’t. The FDR process can only work if both sides in a dispute agree to participate. There may also be impediments to FDR proceeding, such as intervention orders.

Do I need a lawyer to arrange FDR?  button to return to top of page

FDR is usually arranged by lawyers acting for one or the other of the parties in dispute, but you can initiate the FDR process yourself.

For a Property FDR, if either party has not had proper legal advice, usually from a family lawyer, the FDRP will insist that they seek such expert legal advice before the FDR proceeds. This is important, because any agreement reached and signed by the parties regarding their property can be binding and be made the subject of a consent order in a court.

For Parenting FDR, it is advisable that the parties have prior legal advice but this is not essential.

Is there any paperwork or preparation before the FDR?  button to return to top of page

FDR is carried out under the provisions of Australian family law. Before the actual FDR can begin, the FDRP will spend time with each of the parties to assess the suitability of FDR and the capacity of both parties to participate in the process.

If a Property FDR is to proceed, both parties will sign an FDR Agreement (Property FDR sample), which they should discuss with their respective lawyers before signing.

For Property FDR, the parties must seek any relevant advice from lawyers, accountants, financial or other advisers, in order to be fully prepared for the mediation.

If Property FDR is to proceed, the FDRP will ask both parties to independently complete a Property Checklist.

Before any Parenting FDR can be held, each party will be separately interviewed by the FDRP to assess the suitability of FDR and to gain some insight into the family structure.

Do I need a lawyer to come with me to FDR  button to return to top of page

No. It is your choice whether you have someone attend the FDR with you. However, both sides have to agree to allow the other to bring a lawyer or other person along to the FDR. This is common for Property FDRs but not usual for Parenting FDRs.

The FDR process is designed to allow the two parties to discuss matters openly with each other and the FDRP will discourage any lawyers present from acting as advocates for their clients. Any other ‘support’ people are not expected to take an active part in the FDR but may have private discussion with the person they are supporting, in a separate room.

Who can I bring with me to the FDR?  button to return to top of page

In Property FDR, apart from a lawyer, you can bring another adviser, a family member or a trusted friend. However, you need the agreement of the other party to have anyone with you and you can agree or not to the other party having someone with them. If you do not agree for the other party to have someone accompany them to the FDR, they may likewise not agree to you bringing someone along.

In Parenting FDR, it is usual for the parties to come on their own, although provisions may be made for either party to have a support ‘person’ at the FDR. Both parties will have to agree to this and the FDRP has the final say on if and how this is to happen.

Anyone who comes with you to the FDR will have to sign a Confidentiality Agreement before they will be allowed to attend.

How long does a typical FDR take?  button to return to top of page

Given the nature of the disputes coming to FDR, the process is usually conducted over a number of sessions of around 2½ hours each, commonly separated by a week or two.

Most Property FDRs require 2 to 4 sessions. The intervals between sessions allow the parties to gather more information such as valuations and quotes, and to seek more detailed legal and/or financial/tax advice as needed.

Many Parenting FDRs can have a useful result after 1 session, and parties can have future sessions as needed.

How much does an FDR cost?  button to return to top of page

This can depend on:

  • the complexity of the issues
  • the value of the property involved
  • where the FDR is to take place
  • how many sessions are needed
  • possible out-of-pocket expenses for the FDRP, such as travel and accommodation for rural centres and costs of a suitable venue.

The initial FDR session costs from around $1900 for a 2½-hour session plus incidental costs such as venue hire, travel, etc., if required. If there is a follow-on session, this will cost from around $1650. There will also usually be a fee of around $165 for each of the hour-long assessment sessions the FDRP will hold with each party. By comparison, a court hearing can cost each party as much as $20,000 per day.

For a Property FDR, there may also be costs for the time the FDRP necessarily spends reading documents relating to the parties’ property.

Who pays for the FDR?  button to return to top of page

The parties generally share the cost of the FDR equally, paying 50% each. However, the parties may decide on any proportional split they wish

Payment for the assessment sessions is paid on invoice, either directly by the parties or through their respective lawyers. Payment for the first FDR session is made before the FDR commences and then payment for each subsequent session is paid before that session.

What happens if the FDR takes longer than expected?  button to return to top of page

Although the plan is for each session to take around 2½ hours, there will be a clause in the FDR Agreement which sets out the hourly rate for the FDR session to continue beyond the time set aside, if the session extends unreasonably long beyond that time. Payment of this hourly rate will be shared by the parties.

Although it is normal for Property FDR to be conducted over 2 – 4 sessions, each of around 2½ hours, more sessions may be needed and the agreed fee will be payable for each of those. Parenting FDR often requires 1 or 2 sessions, with further sessions, if needed, taking place much later.

What happens if the FDR does not lead to a settlement?  button to return to top of page

If the parties cannot agree on an outcome that is acceptable to both, the FDR may be brought to an end without a settlement agreement. Both parties are then free to pursue other avenues, such as court proceedings. If it is a Parenting FDR, the FDRP may sign a certificate that allows the parties to proceed to court.

If the FDRP thinks that a settlement may be possible if the FDR is adjourned, allowing the parties to have more time to consider their options, he may adjourn the dispute for further FDR on a later date.

Either party may bring the FDR to an end with the consent of the FDRP. The FDRP may also bring the FDR to an end if he thinks there is no longer a possibility of settlement.

There is no refund of the FDR fee if the parties fail to reach a settlement. The FDRP will be committed to do everything he can to help the parties reach a settlement.

Is the result of FDR binding?  button to return to top of page

In a Property FDR, yes – if the Property FDR is successful, the parties will, with the assistance of their respective layers, draw up and sign a Property Settlement, which is binding and which may be used as the basis for a court consent order. A Property Settlement is normally the final agreement between the parties on all matters relating to their relationship property.

In a Parenting FDR, any agreement can be binding if signed by both parties, but it can be reviewed by the parties at any time, if both agree to this, either by themselves, with the assistance of lawyers or through further FDR sessions. A Parenting Agreement may form the basis for a later consent order in court.

What matters can be dealt with in a Property FDR?  button to return to top of page

Property FDR is designed to deal with property of two people who are or were in a personal relationship. It deals with all assets and debts/liabilities and all income and expenses of the two people. It may also, in some cases, deal with spousal maintenance. It does not deal with parenting arrangements or child support.

What matters can be dealt with in a Parenting FDR?  button to return to top of page

Parenting FDR is designed to deal with issues relating to the parenting and care of the children of two people who are or were in a personal relationship. It deals with all arrangements for the children, including the time the children spend with each parent, where the children are to live, and matters of schooling, etc. The FDRP is bound by law to insure that the best interests of the children are provided for, over and above any other considerations.

Parenting FDR does not usually deal with financial matters, although these may come up.

Where does FDR take place?  button to return to top of page

During the current CVID-19 isolation, all FDRs will be held online.

Property FDR is usually conducted in a large room with a table at which the parties can sit opposite each other with ample room for their documents. The FDRP will sit at the end. There will also be room at the table for any support people, such as lawyers.

Parenting FDR may similarly be conducted at a table, or it may be in a more ‘casual’ setting with comfortable chairs around a coffee table.

The venue may be at the offices of the solicitor acting for one of the parties (if both parties agree to this) or in a neutral place. The venue may need to be hired for the occasion.

The venue used will have at least one extra meeting room so that the FDRP may have private discussions with each party or the parties may have private discussions with their respective support people.

It is also possible to conduct FDR online via Zoom, with each person (including the mediator) in a separate place and using a computer.

What if I have further questions?  button to return to top of page

If you have a question or concern that is not adequately addressed above, please complete the Contact Form.