The Dispute Resolution Conference
The Family Law Act seeks to ensure that parties attend Family Dispute Resolution (FDR) and make a genuine effort to resolve all issues in dispute before taking the matter to Court. Parties are also strongly encouraged to engage in mediation or alternate dispute resolution processes during the Court process.
In most circumstances applications for parenting orders filed under the Family Law Act must be accompanied by a Certificate confirming that the parties have attempted Family Dispute Resolution.
All dispute resolution conducted by InTandem Legal Services is facilitated by Registered Family Dispute Resolution Practitioners who are able to provide Certificates.
Parties do not have to attend FDR where this would be inappropriate and a certificate can be issued to this effect. The process is voluntary, confidential and seeks to empower the parties to make their own future arrangements for their families with the support of their legal practitioners.
1: Contact us to arrange a mutually agreeable time and place for a conference to occur and provide us with a brief outline of the issues in dispute along with some background information.
2: InTandem Legal Services will make an assessment which may involve us speaking directly with the clients. Where a conference is deemed appropriate InTandem Legal Services will advise by email and recommend the conference format. If the matter is deemed inappropriate In Tandem Legal Services can provide a certificate to that effect.
In the event that there are allegations of family violence, particular attention is paid to the need to ensure that all participants have the capacity to participate in this process. Where a conference is to proceed in these circumstances, direction will be given as to how participants can best be supported to ensure that they are safe and comfortable with the process.
3: InTandem Legal Services will contact each legal representative or self represented party to finalise arrangements for the time and place of conference and to advise as to any further preparation required.
The conference can be conducted in the city, metropolitan or regional locations, and by telephone, or face to face, or by shuttle. A safety plan or support person may also be recommended at this stage.
4: The settlement conference will proceed in accordance with the agreed arrangements. The conference will be scheduled to take 4 hours or as agreed between all participants. Arrangements for the involvement of other professionals or subsequent sessions can be arranged with the agreement of all participants.
5: At the conclusion of the process the FDRP can provide a brief summary as to the outcome together with the Certificate in parenting matters.
The Child Inclusive Process
Where we determine that family dispute resolution should proceed and our assessment is that it may be appropriate, arrangements can be made for a child consultant to interview the children. Hearing the child’s ‘voice’, in the form of this feedback can be useful from an independent qualified person.
Adults with parental responsibility must provide their consent, a child consultant arranges to meet with children and also arranges time to give verbal feedback to the parents or guardians following the interviews with the children.
The consultant writes a brief confidential report that is provided, approximately one week before the conference, to the parties, their lawyers and to the InTandem FDRP who will be conducting the conference. The consultant provides additional information to the FDRP about the parents’ reaction to the feedback. The clients have time to discuss the consultant’s report with their lawyers. Children do not attend the conference.
The benefits of this input:
- parents are provided with a better understanding of their children’s views and needs assisting them reach agreements focused on the children’s needs and wellbeing.
- children are given a direct voice in decisions that affect their lives
Some parents can find the feedback difficult to take on board where there is new information requiring new understandings of the children.
Parents may have an increased capacity to consider confronting issues such as the impact of the ongoing high conflict between them and make changes for the children.
Lawyers can find the feedback useful in reality testing the client proposals against other alternatives and highly useful in generating child focused conference outcomes.
A further benefit is the ability to identify any risk factors that may be present in the child’s post separation environment which otherwise may not have been detected.