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The Government is now operating in accordance with the Caretaker Conventions, pending the outcome of the 2022 federal election.
Information on Caretaker Conventions can be found on the Prime Minister and Cabinet website.

Family dispute resolution

The law requires separating families who have a dispute about 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 accredited FDR practitioner. The certificate is issued under Section 60I of the Family Law Act 1975 and is commonly known as a Section 60I Certificate.

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 accredited FDR practitioner who has consented to be on the Family Dispute Resolution Register website.

This department does 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 on 1800 050 321 to speak to a legal advisor.

New family dispute resolution services for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander families

The Australian Government's first Implementation Plan under the National Agreement on Closing the Gap included an announcement for funding to establish culturally safe and appropriate family dispute resolution for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander families. The measure provides $8.3 million over 3 years to support selected Aboriginal Community Controlled Organisations (ACCOs) to train and/or employ Family Dispute Resolution FDR practitioners to assist Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander families resolve post-separation parenting and property disputes.

We welcome feedback and ideas from stakeholders on the new services.

The consultation is now open and will run until 25 March 2022.

You can provide input via email to FamilyLawServices@ag.gov.au. You can also share your ideas and feedback via our consultation hub.

We will host several virtual meetings and workshops as part of this consultation process. The workshop agenda will follow the themes of the discussion paper with time for sharing, questions, reflections and next steps.

Online workshops are currently scheduled for:

  • Tuesday 8 March 11am–12:30pm
  • Thursday 10 March 1pm–2:30pm
  • Wednesday 16 March 10am–11:30pm

To register for a workshop, please email FamilyLawServices@ag.gov.au with your preferred workshop time/s and we will send you Webex meeting login details.

You may also email us at FamilyLawServices@ag.gov.au if you would like to arrange a time to provide verbal feedback.

Following this consultation process, we anticipate a grant round will open to eligible service providers in mid 2022 and for grant agreements to be in place with service providers by January 2023.

Find out more about this measure and the consultation process in our discussion paper:

Discussion Paper

Complaints

All accredited FDR practitioners must have access to a complaints mechanism that covers their FDR services, and they are obliged to give you 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 and you are not satisfied with how your complaint has been handled, or you are uncomfortable in pursuing the matter directly with them, you can contact the National Office Complaints Team in the Department of Social Services:

Phone: 1800 634 035
Fax: 02 6204 4587
Email: complaints@dss.gov.au

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
  • ISDR – Institute of Specialist Dispute Resolution
  • 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. Legal Aid Commissions manage complaints about FDR services provided through the legal aid process. Complaints about either of these types of FDR services should be directed to the relevant body in each State or Territory.

This department does not investigate complaints.

For verification of whether a FDR practitioner is accredited or not, you can check the FDR Register or contact the FDR Accreditation Unit, Attorney-General's Department on 1800 025 255 or email fdrregistration@ag.gov.au.

Privacy

If you make a complaint to the department about a practitioner, any personal information you provide will be collected for the purposes of identifying you as the complainant. If the department deems it necessary, your personal information and the substance of your complaint may be passed 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, please refer to the department's Privacy Policy.

For family dispute resolution practitioners

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

More information can be found at: