Family Dispute resolution, or FDR, is intended to help the two people involved in a relationship sort out their differences, principally because they have agreed to separate yet there may be disagreement between them over important aspects of their relationship, particularly the future care and welfare of their children.
FDR sessions usually last for a few hours at a time but are not usually too long as this can be counterproductive when the parties involved get bogged down or tired. The FDR process may vary a little from practitioner to practitioner but follows a standard procedure as outlined below.
The practitioner makes an opening statement addressed to both parents This is basically to specify his or her role in the mediation process as an unbiased intermediary and to present what is going to happen at the meeting.
At this stage, each party makes a statement describing their view of the dispute they have with their partner. The statements are made separately one at a time and addressed to the practitioner.
The FDR practitioner makes a summary of the point of view of each party to make sure that that is what they are saying.
The practitioner then sets the agenda for the rest of the session focusing on the issues that need to be resolved.
At this point, the practitioner enters into a joint dialogue with both parties concerning the issues at stake one at a time. This can result in some allegations being made and can be acrimonious. The practitioner does not take sides in any argument over what one parent or the other has or has not done in the past.
At any time during the exploration of issues, the practitioner may break off for an individual discussion with one or other of the two parties. He or she may try and suggest various options which will help to break the deadlock on certain aspects of the arrangements being discussed. The practitioner may try and negotiate between the two parties to try and reach a resolution.
The practitioner will attempt to steer the meeting towards a consensus agreement over arrangements for the children. This agreement may not cover every aspect of the arrangement but will attempt to cover most, if not all of it. The agreement may be cemented by a written agreement signed by both parents. The practitioner may also suggest that a lawyer is used to prepare a more formal arrangement.
If there is a breakdown of negotiations or things get too risky to proceed, then the practitioner will end the meeting and present each parent with a certificate declaring that the FDR process has been unsuccessful. The parents may then need to take the matter to Court.