Simon Consulting
What is the role of the family dispute resolution practitioner?

Separation often results in high levels of conflict and emotion, differences of opinion and communication difficulties. Family Dispute Resolution Practitioners are neutral in regard to the parties and do not give legal advice. They assist parties to isolate the issues in dispute, develop and consider options to resolve the issues and if appropriate, to agree on one or more of these options. They help you to look at problems in an objective, positive and creative way. Parties accept personal responsibility in moving forward and reaching a workable, future focused agreement, thereby retaining control over the outcome of the dispute. You reach agreement about disputed matters, rather than a judge or a court imposing decisions upon you. Unlike the adversarial court process, FDR is conducted in a neutral, calm and discreet environment reducing levels of conflict and assisting couples to deal with important issues at a crucial time in their lives.

Is family dispute resolution confidential?

All communications made in FDR are strictly confidential enabling parties to express frankly their needs and concerns. If parties are unable to resolve their disputes at FDR and go to Court, the FDR practitioner cannot be subpoenaed to give evidence in court, nor can the parties lead evidence of anything said during the FDR process. Exceptions to the rule of confidentiality do exist and will be discussed with clients at the initial intake appointment.

Do I need a solicitor?

FDR can be used independently of, or in conjunction with legal advice. It is the policy of Simon Consulting to encourage parties to seek advice from a solicitor about their legal rights during the FDR process so that any agreement reached at FDR is a well informed agreement. Parties are able to consult their solicitors by telephone and/or facsimile during the FDR process should the need arise. Agreements reached at FDR should be submitted to a solicitor to draft into an appropriate legally binding document and both parties should have the final document checked by his/her solicitor.

Are agreements reached at family dispute resolution binding?

Parties will be provided with a written copy of any agreement reached at FDR. Agreements reached at FDR are not legally binding documents. Clients are advised to take the agreement/s to a solicitor to be drawn up into a formal document and to be registered with the Court where appropriate. In some cases registration is required for agreements to become legally binding on the parties. Where parties develop parenting plans which set out arrangements for their children they may wish to simply formalize the parenting plan by signing and dating it. Alternatively, they may wish to have the parenting plan drafted by a solicitor into minutes of consent orders which are then submitted to the family court where they are made into court orders.

Do I need to attend family dispute resolution?

Recent changes in Family Law require separating parties to attempt to reach agreement in regard to their children without going to court. This is achieved mainly through family dispute resolution (“FDR”) which is a practical and much cheaper way for separating families to reach agreement. As from 1 July 2008 all parties are required by the Family Law Act to attend family dispute resolution conducted by a registered family dispute resolution provider before they are able to institute court proceedings in regard to their children, or make changes to an existing parenting order. There are some exceptions to this requirement, such as cases involving family violence or child abuse. There are also numerous reasons why FDR may not be appropriate and it is up to the FDR practitioner to make a professional judgment in that regard. Parties are strongly encouraged to resolve their property matters out of court although this is not mandatory.

What happens if one party refuses to attend FDR?

In cases involving the division of assets and liabilities there is no legal requirement that requires parties to attend FDR. Accordingly if one party refuses to attend the other party will have to make an application for property orders to the appropriate court. In cases involving children’s matters, if one party refuses the other party’s invitation to attend FDR, that person will need to obtain a certificate from the FDR practitioner confirming that he/she did not attend FDR but that his/her failure to attend was because the other party refused an invitation to attend FDR.

What happens if we do not reach an agreement at family dispute resolution?

If parties are unable to reach agreement at FDR they may have to apply to the court to make orders in relation to their children and/or the division of their assets and liabilities. In cases involving children, parties who wish to go to court will be required to obtain a certificate from the FDR practitioner to confirm that the parties attended FDR but were unable to resolve their children's issues.
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