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 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 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.
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 on 1800 050 321 to speak to a legal advisor.
New 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 family dispute resolution for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander families.
We released a discussion paper and led a public consultation process over a 10-week period between February and April 2022, to ensure the new services meet the needs of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander families and communities.
Over 60 individuals and organisations participated in virtual meetings and workshops during the consultation process, and we received 18 written submissions. 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.
We have used the feedback and information shared during the consultation process to inform the Grant Opportunity Guidelines for the new First Nations Family Dispute Resolution (First Nations FDR) services. The information will also continue to inform future policy development and decisions.
We thank all those involved in the consultation process for their time and engagement with the project, and for sharing your views, information and ideas. We will soon release a summary of the consultations, along with the publicly available submissions.
We will also open a grant selection round in coming months, with new services anticipated to commence on 1 January 2023. We will make the First Nations FDR Grant Opportunity Guidelines available when the grant selection round opens.
To be alerted of future grant funding opportunities, including for First Nations FDR services, subscribe to GrantConnect.
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
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
- 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.
We do not investigate complaints.
To verify whether an FDR practitioner is accredited or not, you can check the FDR Register.
You can also contact our FDR Accreditation Unit:
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 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: