If you are in a dispute regarding the care or the living arrangements for your children, then you must attend a form of compulsory mediation known as Family Dispute Resolution (FDR) before you may make an application to the Court for parenting orders.

There are some very real dangers in participating in this compulsory mediation process if you are unaware of your rights and options and are ill-prepared for the intensity of the pressure you may be put under to reach an agreement. We do urge you to telephone Madsen Law on ph. (07) 32097744 to arrange a preliminary consultation to prepare yourself and avoid some of the pitfalls of this process referred to later in this article.

Although no particular form of FDR is specified, the most common form is mediation through the government funded Family Relationship Centres, no doubt because they offer a free service. The certificate you obtain from attending or at least trying to facilitate a FDR, operates in a sense, as a key to open the door of the Court, because without this certificate you cannot file an application for parenting orders (except in very limited circumstances).

Some of the weaknesses of the current FDR process (which we have on many occasions observed, manifest in what are obviously heartless, inappropriate, and unfair parenting arrangements) include the following:-

  1. It limits access to justice in the sense that parties engage in the FDR process often without any awareness of their legal entitlements;
  2. It limits access to justice by preventing the parties from applying to a Court unless they first obtain the Certificate;
  3. The current FDR process using the Family Relationships Centres limits access to justice as legal representation is not permitted at the mediation;
  4. It fails to recognise that some cases require a Judge to make decisions because children are in need of protection and one or both of the parents are incapable of recognising and meeting those needs;
  5. It can be slow, with some providers having a back log of cases of up to six months;
  6. The FDR process at a Family Relationship Centre is conducted behind closed doors and lacks transparency. It therefore invites undue influence and power imbalances to work their agenda unnoticed and unchecked;
  7. It exposes some to coercion from a more forceful, persuasive or controlling individual to settle on their terms;
  8. It exposes some people to pressure from misguided overzealous mediators who believe it is better to reach an agreement (even if it is a bad one for the children) than not.

The sad reality is that if a bad agreement is reached it usually requires court intervention many months later to rectify it. So if you are about the enter this FDR process and would like advice and sensible strategies to avoid the dangers listed in this article, then the first thing you should do is call us on phone (07) 3209 7744.

David Madsen, Principal of Madsen Law is an Accredited Family Law Specialist.