Family Dispute Resolution

What is Family Dispute Resolution?

Changes have been made to the family law system to encourage parents to develop cooperative parenting solutions without going to Court. Family dispute resolution is a practical way for separating families to try to resolve any disagreements and make arrangements for the future. This may involve counselling, conciliation, reconciliation, mediation and arbitration.

How do I start the process of reaching an agreement?

The Australian Government has funded Family Relationship Centres Australia wide and they provide 3 hours of free family dispute resolution to separating parents. Other than contacting one of these centres there are various other services that provide family dispute resolution. Waiting lists vary from service to service and in this regard we refer you to our list of service providers listed under

The goal is for a Parenting Plan to be agreed upon between the two parents (or grandparents or other caregivers), which set out how each person spends time with the child or children. It is important to note though that Parenting Plans are not legally enforceable and rely on each person adhering to the plan in order for it to work effectively.

If you are able to reach an agreement through Family Dispute Resolution, then it is best that you have that agreement made into legally binding and enforceable Court Orders that both parties need to abide by. To do this, you need to prepare and file an Application for Consent Orders with the Court.

What happens if we can’t reach agreement?

If you are unable to reach agreement, then you will be issued with a Section 60I Certificate, indicating that you were unable to do so. This Certificate is required prior to filing an Application with the Court for parenting orders. This requirement to provide a certificate is required for any parenting order even if there are pre-existing orders in place save for a few exceptions discussed below.

What are the exceptions to providing a Certificate?

There is a provision that allows for an exemption to the filing of a Certificate in the following circumstances:

  1. If your matter is urgent;
  2. If the Court is satisfied that there are reasonable grounds to believe that:
    • There has been child abuse and/or family violence by a party;
    • There is a risk of family violence by a party, and/or;
    • There is a risk of child abuse if there were to be a delay in applying to the Court;
  3. Where a party is unable to effectively participate due to incapacity or physical remoteness;
  4. If your application relates to a Contravention of a previous order and there are reasonable grounds to believe the other party has shown a serious disregard for their obligations.

To find out more information or to arrange an appointment, please contact Kathy Matri on 02 4322 0251 or email us at [email protected]