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Family Dispute Resolution

Family dispute resolution is a process in which a family dispute resolution practitioner helps people affected, or likely to be affected, by separation or divorce, to resolve some or all of their disputes with each other.

The law requires families affected by separation, who have a dispute about the care of children, to make a genuine effort to try to sort it out through Family Dispute Resolution (FDR) before filing an application for parenting orders in court.

This requirement applies to anyone wanting to file an application with a family law court. It also includes those seeking changes to an existing parenting order. There are a few exceptions to this requirement, such as cases involving family violence, child abuse or urgency.

Unless an exemption applies, parties seeking to have a parenting matter determined by a family law court will need to file a certificate from an FDR practitioner. The certificate is issued under Section 60I of the Family Law Act 1975 and is commonly known as a Section 60I Certificate.

An FDR practitioner can also assist separating and separated families to agree on arrangements for their property without going to court.

FDR is confidential and is not admissible under the Family Law Act. However, this only applies when FDR is done with an FDR practitioner that we have accredited or who is authorised by a Court. Any other form of mediation is not protected under the Family Law Act.

For families

You can visit Family Relationships Online for more information about the services and advice available for families, including seeking services from an FDR practitioner.

An FDR practitioner is an independent person who can help people discuss issues, look at options and work out how best to reach agreement in disputes about children. You can search for an FDR practitioner who has consented to be on the Family Dispute Resolution Register.

We do not provide legal advice on individual family law matters (including FDR) or proceedings. You can seek independent legal advice or call the Family Relationship Advice Line (FRAL) on 1800 050 321 to speak to a legal advisor.

Family Dispute Resolution services for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander families

The first Commonwealth Implementation Plan under the National Agreement on Closing the Gap included funding of $8.3 million over 3 years to establish culturally safe and appropriate FDR for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander families. This included departmental funds for consultation, grant selection and administration activities, and $7.062 million in administered funding for 18 months of service delivery between January 2023 and June 2024. In the 2024-25 Budget, the Australian Government provided an additional $11.2 million in administered funding for a further 2 years of service delivery, to 30 June 2026. 

Nine Aboriginal Community Controlled Organisations are funded to deliver First Nations Family Dispute Resolution services. The organisations and their approximate service areas are listed below.

Aboriginal Resource and Development Services Aboriginal CorporationDarwin and North East Arnhem Land, NT
Bungree Aboriginal Association LimitedCentral Coast LGA, City of Cessnock, City of Lake Macquarie, City of Newcastle LGA and Port Stephens LGA NSW
Dhulawang Aboriginal CorporationMid-North Coast (Kempsey) NSW
Ebenezer Aboriginal CorporationPerth, WA
Helem Yumba IncorporatedRockhampton, Livingstone, Gladstone, Woorabinda and Central Highlands, QLD
Institute for Urban Indigenous Health LtdBrisbane and South-East QLD
Ngunya Jarjum Aboriginal Corporation LismoreNorthern Rivers (Tweed Heads, Ballina Shire, Byron Bay Shire, Lismore City, Richmond Valley and Kyogle) NSW
Orange Aboriginal Corporation Health ServiceOrange, Blayney, Bathurst Regional, Cabonne, Cowra, Forbes, Lithgow, Mid-Western Regional, Oberon NSW
Southern Aboriginal CorporationSouth-Western WA

Public consultation took place in early 2022, to inform the design of First Nations FDR and ensure the new services meet the needs of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander families and communities. People and organisations involved in the consultation process came from locations across Australia, and brought a wealth of experience and expertise from the community, service delivery sector, courts, peak and professional bodies, training organisations and government agencies. Further information on the consultation process is available at the Consultation Hub.

Complaints

All accredited FDR practitioners must have access to a complaints mechanism that covers their FDR services, and they are obliged to give information about their complaints process before providing FDR services. If you wish to make a complaint about your experience with an accredited FDR practitioner, you should directly raise your complaint with the practitioner in the first instance.

If the FDR practitioner works for a government funded service such as a Family Relationship Centre, you should first seek to have your complaint dealt with by the organisation where you have received the FDR service. If you are not satisfied with how your complaint has been handled, or you are uncomfortable in pursuing the matter directly with them, you can lodge your complaint directly with us.

Lodge your complaint directly

You can also read more about the complaints process, or contact us via:

Telephone: 02 6141 6666
Email: flscomplaints@ag.gov.au
Mail: 3–5 National Circuit, Barton, ACT, 2600

 

Legal aid commissions and some community legal centres manage complaints about the FDR services they offer through their own internal processes. Complaints about either of these types of FDR services should be directed to the relevant body in each state or territory.

If you have a complaint about a private FDR practitioner, you will need to progress your complaint with their nominated external complaints body. The approved professional associations for FDR practitioners are:

  • ADRA – Australian Dispute Resolution Association
  • AIFLAM – Australian Institute of Family Law Arbitrators and Mediators
  • AMA – Australian Mediation Association
  • Conflictsolvers
  • Mediation Institute
  • Resolution Institute
  • VADR – Victorian Association for Dispute Resolution

Some legal service commissions and legal professional conduct boards also accept complaints about lawyers when they provide an FDR service.

To verify whether an FDR practitioner is accredited or not, you can check the FDR Register.

You can also contact our FDR Accreditation Unit:

Privacy

If you make a complaint to us about a practitioner, any personal information you provide will be collected for the purposes of identifying you as the complainant. If we deem it necessary, we may pass on your personal information and the substance of your complaint to the practitioner concerned or the practitioner's complaints handling body in order for them to respond to the issues raised. Excluding the appropriate body to deal with your complaint, we will not disclose your personal information to anyone not named in the complaint. If you do not provide suitable identifying information we may not be able to take action on your complaint.

For information about how your personal information is managed, refer to our Privacy Policy.

For Family Dispute Resolution Practitioners

We are responsible for accrediting FDR practitioners. An accredited FDR practitioner meets specific standards contained in the Family Law (Family Dispute Resolution Practitioners Regulations) 2008.

Find out more: