The Impact of Family Dispute Resolution at Relationships Australia

Jun 1, 2017

What is the project?

In 2017, the Relationships Australia National Research Network implemented a large project funded by the Relationships Australia Federation. The study was designed to generate evidence on the outcomes of Relationships Australia’s Family Dispute Resolution (FDR) services, in both parenting and property disputes. The study employed a longitudinal survey design with quantitative data collected through client surveys at multiple points in time, as well as interviews with a subsample of participants to further investigate experiences and perceptions of the dispute resolution process. The RA FDR Outcomes Study was jointly managed by RA Victoria and RA Queensland.

What is Family Dispute Resolution?

Family Dispute Resolution (FDR) supports separating couples to resolve family law disputes about parenting and the care of children, child support, financial arrangements and how to divide assets. Relationships Australia (RA) is one of the largest national providers of family law services, including FDR, in Australia.


The research was completed in 2019. The study provides sound evidence for the efficacy of the federation’s family dispute resolution services, not only in assisting separating couples to reach agreement in parenting and property disputes, but also in reducing distress, improving adjustment to separation, and facilitating communication outside of FDR sessions.

Key findings include that:

  • Almost two thirds (65%) of participants reached a full or partial agreement on one matter or more.
  • Overwhelmingly, participants found FDR to be safe, accessible and affordable. The traits of mediators were rated most positively.
  • Reaching an agreement significantly reduced acrimony between the two parties. Simply participating in FDR alone, however, also reduced acrimony among those clients who expected to proceed onto court, and the FDR process also improved communication and adjustment to separation for many participants.

Find out more

Several peer-reviewed papers have been published from this study, including those below.

G. Heard & A. Bickerdike (2021), “Am I on track?” Family Dispute Resolution & the client need for guidance in post-separation property matters.’ Australian Journal of Family Law, 34(3): 211-230.

G. Heard & A. Bickerdike (2021), ‘Dispute resolution choices for property settlement in Australia: Client views on the advantages and disadvantages of Family Dispute Resolution and legal pathways’ Family Court Review, 59(4): 790-809.

G. Heard, A. Bickerdike & J. Lee (2021), ‘Family Dispute Resolution for property matters: The case for making space’ Australasian Journal of Dispute Resolution, 31(2): 158-172.

Similar projects

Family and Relationship Services Outcomes Study

Relationship Indicators

Including youth voices in community services

Post-Separation Co-parenting Apps: Can They Help Families Avoid Conflict?