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Family Dispute Resolution Process

Family Dispute Resolution is a process by which people who are in conflict can be supported to communicate with each other about what is important for them and how to make decisions relevant to resolving their dispute.

Family Dispute Resolution (FDR) is now compulsory, meaning that people who wish to resolve disputes relevant to their children (parenting matters), are now required to attend Family Dispute Resolution and make a genuine effort to resolve issues, before they progress through the court system.  Situations involving family violence, child abuse or extremely urgent matters are exempt from Family Dispute Resolution.

Family Dispute Resolution Certificates are required if you want to apply to the court for a parenting order. The certificate confirms that a genuine attempt at Family Dispute Resolution was made.

Family Dispute Resolution Practitioners provide clients with support to sort out issues and develop acceptable solutions, that potentially lead to mutually satisfactory agreements.

The family dispute resolution process involves:

  • identifying the issues which need to be resolved
  • both parties listening to each other's point of view without interruption
  • sharing relevant information
  • exploring ideas and options
  • testing possible solutions
  • putting decisions and agreements in writing.

The role of family dispute resolution practitioners

Family Dispute Resolution practitioners are highly-skilled people from a variety of professional backgrounds, such as law and social sciences. They are trained in resolving disputes relating to families, children, finance or property matters.

Family Dispute Resolution practitioners can work alone or with another practitioner. They do not give legal advice but will explore general principles that apply to couples who are separating.  They may give advice in relation to children and parenting matters, focusing on the best interests of the child.

Family Dispute Resolution practitioners are impartial and fair to both parties. The are focused on the future and on helping the parties resolve their dispute. The process is confidential, within the limits of the law.

What you can expect

Family Dispute Resolution is facilitated by an independent third party. The decisions made are not legally binding. Everyone gets the opportunity to express their point of view and are free to talk about issues of concern, with everyone present.

Participants must be willing to listen to the other party, be genuinely ready to compromise and committed to reaching a solution. Participants must also be prepared to follow the process.


Family dispute resolution has many benefits including:

  • a saving in money and time as it is less costly and faster than the court process
  • the promotion of co-operation and communication, which enhances the ongoing parenting relationship
  • the provision of a structure in which future disputes can be resolved more readily
  • the individual's control in the decision-making process is maintained as there are no imposed decisions
  • less stress or trauma than court proceedings
  • a more effective means of conflict resolution and greater longevity as people are less likely to breach agreements that they have made themselves.

The alternatives to Family Dispute Resolution are to seek Arbitration (a less formal legal alternative than going to court), instruct lawyers to negotiate agreements on your behalf, commence court proceedings or resolve the issues directly yourselves.

Relationships Australia State and Territory websites