FAMILY DISPUTE RESOLUTION (aka FDR or Mediation)

At Northern Frontiers we promote the right of every child to enjoy safe meaningful relationships with both parents/care-providers and significant others. We support healthy, respectful family relationships that are free from conflict - and we encourage agreement over litigation...

Curious to see how Mediation works

Northern Frontiers can take the angst out of family separation and get your family running smoothly again.

Who attends Family Dispute Resolution (more commonly called Mediation)?

Usually parents or care-providers attend mediation however the process may be initiated by step-parents; grandparents and other relatives or anyone who has an ongoing interest in the care arrangements and well-being of a child or children following family separation.

Is Mediation compulsory?

In short, 'Yes'. If separated parents or care-providers cannot agree on childcare arrangements they are legally required to make a genuine effort to resolve their dispute via mediation before applying to have the matter dealt with in court (see below for exceptions). In most cases you can only apply directly to a Family Law Court to have a parenting matter heard if you have a S60I certificate from an accredited Family Dispute Resolution Practitioner (more commonly referred to as a Mediator) indicating the matter is not appropriate for mediation. The following exceptions apply:

  • If you are applying for Consent Orders (agreement with the other party has been reached)

  • If the matter is urgent (e.g. a child has been or is at risk of being kidnapped or abused)

  • When there is history of family violence and/or current risk of family violence or child abuse

  • If a party is unable to mediate effectively (e.g. due to mental or emotional incapacity or geographical difficulties)

  • If a party has contravened and shown significant disregard for a court order made in the last 12 months.

If you are unsure about your family situation our Mediator can assist you with information or referral to legal advice. 

Does my child have to attend Mediation?

At Northern Frontiers we offer child-inclusive mediation services. When parents or care-providers disagree around childcare arrangements the Mediator may suggest engaging a Child Consultant. A Child Consultant is a professional who speaks privately with the child and enquires about his/her individual experience of family separation. Confidentiality is assured for the child, with the exception of a report to the Mediator. The Mediator uses the information contained in the report to guide/assist parties in their decision-making. For example, a child may report feeling sad or frightened at changeovers because his/her parents argue loudly. During the next mediation session the Mediator provides examples of conflict-free changeover arrangements that have been adopted by other separated families with positive outcomes. This type of intervention is helpful in ensuring parents are made aware of the impact of family separation on their child and are well-informed when making childcare arrangements The services of a Child Consultant may only be engaged with dual parental consent.

What information will I be provided with?

During your Intake & Assessment session the Mediator will provide you with information about the mediation process (including limits of confidentiality, complaints process and the cost of mediation) and family separation in general (including resources to assist you in making child-friendly care arrangements and/or property agreement). The Mediator will also talk to you about accessing legal advice. You will in turn be asked to provide information about your family’s history and current situation and express any safety concerns you may have for yourself, the other party or your child/ren.

Is what I say shared with anyone else?

All that you talk about during mediation will be held in confidence and is non-admissible as evidence in any court (exceptions apply). If you indicate a threat to someone's safety or the commission of serious criminal activity the Mediator may be required to notify the relevant authority and in so doing breach confidentiality. In particular, the Mediator must consider reporting suspected child abuse or risk of a child being abused.

What if I don’t feel safe?

Your safety and that of your family is of paramount concern to us so at any stage if you have safety concerns you should tell the staff at Northern Frontiers as soon as possible. This may mean mediation is delayed or does not proceed - however, if parties agree and the situation is assessed as appropriate, telephone mediation may be a safe option.

Remember, the Law does not require you to mediate if there is/has been family violence or child abuse.

What happens if we reach agreement?

Any agreement (even a partial one) will be recorded by the Mediator in the form of a Parenting Agreement or Property Agreement. To be considered official, Agreements must be in writing, dated and signed by both parties. Parenting agreements can include agreement around the process for changing childcare arrangements and/or resolving future parenting disputes. As such parenting agreements may be re-visited over time via mediation If you wish to make your parenting or property agreement legally binding we advise you to seek legal advice or speak with a court officer.

What if we don’t reach agreement?

At Northern Frontiers we believe mediation is not just about reaching agreement – it’s also about you and the other party communicating more effectively and developing an ongoing parenting relationship – something we think is a really good thing for your family.

So if you attempt mediation and don’t reach agreement you may be issued with a S60I certificate indicating one of the following:

  • the other party did not attend

  • you and the other party attended and made a genuine effort to resolve the dispute

  • you and the other party attended but one or both of you failed to make a genuine effort to resolve the dispute

  • the Mediator decided your case was not appropriate for mediation, or

  • mediation commenced however the Mediator considered it inappropriate to continue.

What if I don't attend Mediation?

If you do not attend mediation or make a genuine effort to resolve your family dispute through that process, a S60I certificate may be issued reflecting those circumstances.  If your dispute proceeds to court you may be ordered to pay the other party's legal costs - or you may be directed to attend mediation.

Booking in for Mediation: In addition to normal business hours Northern Frontiers offers 7.30 am appointments for mediation as well as Saturday and Sunday appointments - which means there's no need to disrupt your work/life schedule. Out of hours appointments tend to fill fast so please book early to avoid disappointment.

Simply call 1300 90 71 80 or email: reception@northernfrontiers.com.au