Family Dispute Resolution

A process that assists parents, couples and families to have supported discussions and negotiate agreements in relation to their children and financial matters

What is Family Dispute Resolution (FDR)?

FDR assists and supports parents and people experiencing separation to communicate with each other about issues relating to their children and/or property division.

At Better Place Australia, we understand that separation can be a difficult time for families. It is important to us that everyone who engages with our service feels safe and comfortable to take part and participate effectively in these discussions. Sessions can take place in person, or via video or telephone. The Family Dispute Resolution Practitioner (FDRP) may facilitate conversations between the participants jointly or separately.

Our Family Advisors and Family Dispute Resolution Practitioners are skilled at working with separated couples. All our FDRP’s are accredited with the Attorney General’s Department. Their role is to help participants focus on their children’s needs, what is important to them, and help parents achieve workable agreements by facilitating child and future-focused discussions.


Who uses Family Dispute Resolution?

FDR is used by:

  • separated parents and families who are looking for a practical, child-focused approach to resolving post separation disputes that they are unable to settle on their own.
  • grandparents or other significant people in the children’s lives who would like to have time or communicate with the children.
  • separated couples who want to discuss and negotiate post separation financial matters (please see our section on property mediation for more information)

Watch case studies of how Eliza (FDR Team Leader) has supported separating parents through mediation on our podcast page.


Why do Family Dispute Resolution?

When parents separate, the Commonwealth Family Law Act (1975), requires them, in most instances, to attempt Family Dispute Resolution before initiating court proceedings for parenting matters.

FDR provides an opportunity to have facilitated discussions about children and/or finances and supports participants in trying to reach an agreement. FDR can be far less costly and time consuming than a court process and focuses on positive outcomes for families.

Reaching an agreement and having a written Parenting Plan in place, may reduce the risk of children being exposed to conflict between parents going forward. It can also help parents provide children with stability and routine. FDR is voluntary so no one is forced to participate. There is no pressure to come to an agreement in mediation or talk about issues that you don’t feel comfortable discussing.



FDR is governed by the confidentiality provisions under the Family Law Act (1975). This protects the information a participant shares with the Practitioner and the discussions that take place in the mediation session/s themselves. Nothing will be disclosed to anyone else without your consent, except if there is a risk to any person or property, or a risk of harm to children.

All participants are asked to complete a consent form when they engage with our service, and an Agreement to Mediate form must be signed by all participants prior to the mediation session proceeding. Any third parties present for the discussions, such as support people, are also required to sign a document agreeing to maintain confidentiality.


What will the Family Dispute Resolution Practitioner (FDRP) do?

A FDRP will:

  • Listen: Gather the necessary information from you and answer any questions you may have about the process or the service.
  • Assess: Determine whether FDR is the right process for your situation.
  • Prepare: Give both parents information that will help them prepare for family dispute resolution and guide them through the process.
  • Offer Referrals: Identify appropriate referrals for legal advice, counselling, income support or other assistance if required.

Watch how we've helped separating couples

On our videos page, watch the short case studies where FDR Team Leader Eliza shares briefly how we have helped separating couples through FDR mediation, and the positive outcome that has been achieved for the couples.

Click here.


What can you expect?

Here’s a snapshot of the process:

Initial Appointment

When you engage with BPA for family dispute resolution, you will be booked in for an initial one on one appointment with one of our Practitioners. The Practitioner will meet with you and gather some information about you, your children, and your relationship with the other parent. If appropriate to do so, they will invite the other parent to participate. If the other parent is willing to engage in the service, the Practitioner will also have a separate one on one appointment with them.


Prior to booking in a mediation session, the Practitioner will assess the appropriateness of family dispute resolution for your situation as required by the Family Law Act (1975). If the matter is appropriate for FDR to proceed, the Practitioner will decide how they will run the session and whether the session will take place in person or via video or telephone. The Practitioner will also assess which format will work best for your matter to ensure all participants can effectively participate and maximise the chances of reaching an agreement. The session could run in a ‘shuttle’ format where the FDRP takes content back and forth between the participants separately or it may run in a joint format where the FDRP has discussions with you both together.


If your matter is appropriate, the FDRP will contact you and schedule a time for a 2-hour mediation session and a premediation review call. The premediation review call is a 30-minute one on one appointment that takes place before the mediation session. This gives the Practitioner an opportunity to prepare you for the session, talk you through the process and answer any questions you may have. They will talk to you about what you would like to discuss with the other parent and explore what arrangements you think will be in the children’s best interests going forward. The law requires that FDRP’s assess appropriateness for mediation throughout the process.

The Mediation Session

At the start of your session, the FDRP will ask you for your ‘agenda items’. These are topics you would like to discuss with the other parent, and can include matters such as:

  • care arrangements
  • arrangements for special occasions
  • any other issues that you feel needs to be addressed with the other parent in relation to the children

Agenda items are only tabled for discussion if both parties are willing to discuss them or if there is willingness to hear what the other parent has to say about a particular issue. There is no pressure to respond or to reach an agreement. The FDRP will assist with exploring options and helping parents to consider proposals based on their family’s needs and their children’s age and stage of development. More than one 2-hour session may be required to work through the agenda items.

Child in Focus

Each parent will be provided with an online link to a Child in Focus session. This is designed to help parents focus on their children’s needs and understand the Family Dispute Resolution process. We encourage all parents coming through our service to complete this session as part of their preparations.

Parenting Plans

A Parenting Plan can be drafted by the FDRP post session/s which will reflect what has been agreed to by both parents during mediation. The Parenting Plan becomes active when signed and dated by both parents, but it is not legally binding in the way a court order or consent order is.  A lawyer can give advice about how to turn a parenting plan into consent orders.

Click for Parenting Plans – Fact sheet

What is a parenting plan?

Family Dispute Resolution can help parents negotiate a written parenting agreement, provide an opportunity for parents to review their existing arrangements or discuss important issues in relation to the children such as schooling, interstate/overseas travel, medical care etc. Parenting Plans can be adapted to suit your families’ circumstances and meet your children’s needs. They will often include:

  • The time children will spend and the communication they will have with each parent.
  • The time the children will spend and the communication they will have with significant others who are important to them, such as grandparents and extended family.
  • The activities the children will do with each parent (e.g., sports, homework, music) and their participation in extracurricular activities.
  • Arrangements for school holidays and special occasions, such as birthdays, religious or cultural events, graduation days.
  • How parents will communicate about the children’s day to day needs and make decisions about longer term issues.
  • An agreed process for reviewing the Parenting Plan as the children get older and their needs change.
  • How parents will resolve disputes going forward and ensure the children are protected from conflict.

As children grow, their needs change, and the circumstances of parents can change. Parenting Plans need to be practical while prioritising the children’s needs, best interests, and wellbeing.


What if the matter needs to go to Court?

If the other parent does not want to participate in FDR, if FDR is assessed as not being the right forum for your matter, or if you are unable to reach an agreement through this process, the FDRP can issue a s.60i certificate which can be used to file a court application. For property mediation, letters of attendance can be provided.


What can FDR do?

Family Dispute Resolution can help separated couples:

  • negotiate parenting arrangements
  • consider the parental responsibilities of each parent
  • navigate complex issues and have difficult conversations
  • negotiate mutually acceptable outcomes
  • reduce the emotional impact of separation by potentially avoiding a court process
  • reduce legal costs and potentially achieve an outcome in a timelier manner
  • divide property and discuss financial matters


What can’t FDR do?

FDR can’t:

  • provide legal advice or tell people what they should or shouldn’t agree to
  • take sides or make judgements about either party
  • share information with the other party without consent


Post Mediation Follow Up

After your matter is concluded, Better Place Australia may contact you in approximately 3-6 months’ time via a short email with a questionnaire to follow up on your progress.


Appointments for FDR

BPA’s FDR service offers both telephone and video appointments. Centre based appointments are also available at the following sites:

  • Cheltenham
  • Croydon
  • Oakleigh
  • Traralgon
  • Sale (Mondays Only)


In summary, our practitioners will:



Hear your side of the story and help clarify your concerns



Determine with you whether FDR is the right process for your specific situation


Prepare you

Give you information on the process and help you prepare for FDR


Suggest referrals

Identify appropriate referrals for legal advice, counselling, income support or other assistance if required.

Fact sheets

Parenting Plans – Fact sheet

Family dispute resolution – Fact sheet

Supporting children through separation – Fact sheet

Before you start Family Dispute Resolution – Fact sheet

Children: Family Violence and the Law – Fact sheet

Section 60i Certificate – Fact Sheet

Regulation 28 – Fact sheet

Find out more about this service

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This service is available at these locations

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Please make an enquiry if you would like to book an appointment for one of our services. Alternatively, you can live chat with us during business hours.

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