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Counselling and Mediation


Family Relationship Centres/Family Dispute Resolution Centres

Family Relationship Centres/Family Dispute Resolution Centres are intended to be “one stop shops” for all family issues and will offer relationship counselling and post separation mediation. The centres will play a big role in the government’s intended cultural change of keeping people out of the family law court system.

Find the closest Family Relationship Centre to you.

Is family dispute resolution compulsory?

From 1 July 2008 changes to the family law system make Family Dispute Resolution a requirement before you can apply to the court for a parenting order.  This includes new applications, and applications seeking changes to an existing Parenting Order. There are some exceptions to this requirement, such as cases involving family violence or child abuse or where the matter is urgent.

What is family dispute resolution?

Family dispute resolution is the legal name for services such as mediation and conciliation that help people affected by separation and divorce to sort out their disputes with each other. You may have reached a point where you can’t agree on issues concerning your property, children, or money. You may not be able to talk to each other at all.

Family dispute resolution can help you sort out these issues without going to court. If you can resolve your differences you’ll save yourself time, money and a whole lot of stress.

Family dispute resolution can be provided by a range of individuals and organisations, such as Family Relationship Centres, community organisations, and legal aid commissions; and individuals such as lawyers, social workers or psychologists.  If you are in a remote locality, there is also the option of accessing family dispute resolution via telephone.  All family dispute resolution providers must be registered and must meet appropriate standards of training, experience and suitability.

What are the exceptions to the requirement to attend family dispute resolution?

You are not required to attend family dispute resolution:

        • where you are applying for consent orders
        • where you are responding to an application
        • where the matter is urgent
        • if the court is satisfied that there are reasonable grounds to believe that:
                • there has been family violence or child abuse by a party
                • there is a risk of violence by a party, or
                • there is a risk of child abuse if there were to be a delay.
        • where a party is unable to participate effectively (for example, they are too far from a family dispute resolution provider or because of an incapacity of some kind), or
        • where a person has contravened and shown a serious disregard for a court order made in the last 12 months.

When applying to the court, you will need to provide information to demonstrate that one of the exceptions applies to you.

If you use the exception relating to family violence or child abuse, you will also need to get information about your options and about services that can help you. You will need to get this information from a family counsellor or family dispute resolution practitioner or by ringing the Family Relationship Advice Line on 1800 050 321.

However, you do not have to get this information if you can satisfy the court that there is a risk of violence or child abuse. If you have concerns for your safety you should advise the court.