Compulsory Family Dispute Resolution in Parenting Proceedings

It is necessary to obtain a family dispute resolution certificate in parenting proceedings. The certificate must be attached to the application for a parenting order. A Family Dispute Resolution Certificate is necessary for parenting proceedings. This certificate must be attached to an application for a parenting order.

A parenting order is sought to establish parenting arrangements for children such as where they will live and with whom they will spend time or communicate with.

In the following cases or situations a family dispute resolution is not required:

  • Financial orders only;
  • Interim or procedural orders only;
  • International child abduction under the Hague Convention;

Consent orders;

  • Child support;
  • Property settlement only;
  • An amended parenting order application.
  • With the abovementioned cases, the parties can go directly to court.

Through a family dispute resolution, it is hoped that parties resolve their differences concerning the care of their children and avoid the court by entering into an agreement.  The parents of a child are in the best position of deciding what is in the best interest of their child. Hence, they are encouraged to amicably settle parenting arrangements.

Family dispute resolution reduces costs and stress and declog the court dockets.

By negotiation and mediation during the dispute resolution, parties can choose the parenting arrangements that are suited to their needs and capabilities. They will not be pressured to enter into an arrangement which they just might end up violating. The parties will be the one to control the issues to be discussed while the dispute resolution practitioner will facilitate the discussion.

There are instances when parties are exempted from the requirement of attaching to their application a family dispute resolution certification.

Whenever parties are exempted they can proceed directly to court with their application provided that they execute an affidavit stating the exemption. Section 90I(9) of the Family Law Act 1975 provides the instances when a party is exempted from undergoing a family dispute resolution:

  • Existence or risk of child abuse and/or family violence by a party;
  • Urgent matters;
  • If a party is unable to take active participation in the family dispute resolution;

If the matter concerns a contravention of an order that was made within the last 12 months and there is evidence that the violator showed serious disregard of the order.

If the ground for exemption is child abuse or family violence, the applicant must seek advice from a family counsellor or family dispute resolution practitioner as to what alternatives and services are available to victims of abuse or violence.

The statement in the certificate will depend on what transpired during the family dispute resolution. The certificate may state either of the following:

  • Parties attended the dispute resolution and exerted genuine effort to resolve issues;
  • Parties attended the dispute resolution but did not exert genuine effort in resolving issues;
  • A party or both parties did not attend the dispute resolution;
  • The practitioner considered it inappropriate to conduct the dispute resolution;

The parties attended the dispute resolution, but the practitioner considered it inappropriate to continue.

The exact situation will always be reflected by the practitioner in the certificate. The practitioner is an impartial individual who will merely assist the parties in resolving their issues.

Compulsory mediation in parenting proceedings