How To Resolve Family Disputes
Posted: 21st March 2019
Posted by: Fiona Browne, Associate
Couples who are separating or getting divorced face difficult decisions. They may have different views about what is fair for parenting arrangements, financial settlements, the division of properties, etc. It can be challenging to agree on issues and it may be necessary to have an independent third party assist with coming to a resolution about family disputes.
In cases where parties can’t come to an agreement, separating couples should look for ways to resolve family disputes.
How You Can Resolve Family Disputes
Negotiate Directly with the Other Person
Putting the best interests of the children first should be the primary intent of separating parents. Negotiating directly with your former partner is normally the first approach used to resolve family disputes. It may be difficult, especially if your separation is not amicable.
- Choose a time and venue convenient for both of you to avoid distractions.
- Speak directly to each other and set out all the issues which concern you both.
- Keep the focus on matters that are in dispute.
- Listen intently and acknowledge each other’s perspective.
- Avoid blaming each other.
- Most of all, stay calm, hear the other person out and be respectful.
If successful, informal agreements may be reached. There is no requirement for you to take the matter further. It is important to understand though, that informal agreements are NOT ENFORCEABLE BY A COURT.
Even if you reach an agreement, it is recommended that you formalise the agreement. This can be done without having to set foot inside a court.
If negotiating directly with your former partner directly does not bring about an agreement, there are still other pathways to assist with the resolution of family disputes.
Mediation (Family Dispute Resolution Counselling)
If negotiating directly with the other parent is unsuccessful, parents still need to decide together what arrangements should be made for the children. They may need to engage a third party. When a third party is needed to help resolve family law disputes the process is called Mediation or Family Dispute Resolution (FDR) Counselling.
Separating couples have a meeting facilitated by a neutral party. This is normally an accredited family dispute resolution practitioner.
The law requires that separating parents who dispute parenting arrangements participate in Mediation with a trained FDR practitioner before filing an application for parenting orders in court. There are circumstances where there may be an exception. The requirement for pre-action Family Dispute Resolution does not apply for instance if the court is satisfied about the risk of family violence or child abuse.
Benefits of Mediation and Family Dispute Resolution
- Save Money and Time: Going to Family Court can be an expensive and lengthy process. Participating in Mediation can achieve an earlier outcome and be significantly cheaper.
- Reach a Negotiated Outcome Suitable for Both Parties: If you and your former partner are able to reach a decision together with the help of a mediator, the end result will be an agreement which is suited to both parties. It is more likely that you will both follow the arrangement as both of you have had input. If you go to court, someone else makes the decision.
- Avoid Stress: The uncertainty of going to court is stressful. Going to court does not necessarily give you the outcome that you want. Neither party is likely to be 100% happy.
If the matter remains unresolved after Family Dispute Resolution, you will be issued with a Section 601 Certificate. You must file this Certificate with your Application to the court to commence parenting proceedings.
Related: Family Dispute Resolution
Seek Help through the Legal System
If an agreement cannot be reached and you have exhausted all possible resolution avenues, the court system may be the only way to resolve family disputes.
Speak with an experienced Family Lawyer. Seek legal advice on how to navigate the court system.
Related Article: Alternatives To Consider Before Going To The Family Court