Skip to main content

Separated parents should see court proceedings as a last resort. In fact, the Family Law Act requires parties to make a genuine effort to resolve their dispute by family dispute resolution before applying to the Court.

Parties should make enquiries with a private mediation service such as Relationships Australia or a Family Relationship Centre to start the intake process as soon as possible as this process can be quite lengthy. The benefits of attending mediation are that parties are able to retain the decision making between themselves – rather than a Judge of the Court making important decisions about their life.  Even if there is no agreement reached at mediation, usually the issues are narrowed and there is less to argue about in the Courts.

Several outcomes can occur from participating in mediation.  Some of them are outlined below:

The other party does not attend

In this case, the family dispute resolution practitioner will issue a certificate to the requesting party and that party will file the certificate when commencing proceedings.  The certificate will state that the requesting party did not attend family dispute resolution but their failure to do so was due to the refusal, or the failure of the other party to attend.

The matter is not appropriate to mediate

All parties attended and made a genuine effort to resolve the issue/s
The family dispute resolution practitioner will issue a certificate stating that all parties made a genuine effort to resolve the issue/s.  This is whether the issue/s between the parties were resolved or not.

One of the parties did not make a genuine effort to resolve the issue/s
A certificate will be issued by the family dispute resolution practitioner stating that despite all parties attending, one or both parties did not make a genuine effort to resolve the issue/s. It is important to note that if proceedings are subsequently filed, the Court may take the kind of certificate into account in their considerations, including determining whether a costs order should be made against  party.

Parenting Plan

Family dispute resolution practitioners are not able to draft or finalise parenting orders.  Rather, they are able to assist parties in entering into a Parenting Plan if they come to an agreement at mediation. A parenting plan is a written agreement with the other parent.  It sets rules for things such as how much time the children will spend with each parent.  These plans are great for those separated parents who remain amicable and can communicate effectively about parenting arrangements.

What you need to keep in mind though that a parenting plan is not legally binding.  Therefore, if the relationship between separated parents breaks down, then either parent cannot enforce the terms of the agreement. We therefore recommend that if a Parenting Plan is agreed, then parties have it converted into a legally binging Parenting Consent Order as soon as possible.

If you would like to know more – contact us today.

Katrina Peters

Associate at Statewide Legal Practice