Pensive girl

Mediation of family parenting issues

with a Parenting Coordinator trained mediator

Randal is an experienced and well respected Brisbane family mediator who is:
  • an accredited mediator under the Australian National Mediator Standards by the Queensland Law Society;
  • a registered Family Dispute Resolution Practitioner under the Family Law Act;
  • a Queensland Law Society Accredited Family Law Specialist
  • a trained Parenting Co-ordinator

Family Mediation (more properly referred to as family dispute resolution when dealing with childrens matters) is a real alternative to divorce court proceedings.  In fact, the Family Law Act requires mediation to be at least attempted in most instances before an application can be made to the Court about arrangements for children.

It makes common sense that parents should resolve parenting issues themselves.  However, there may be reasons why that is not possible.  Not the least of those reasons is the breakdown of the trust relationship and communication between the parents, particularly at the time of separation.

If the parents can’t resolve parenting arrangements themselves then they might just need someone to help.

There are many family mediators out there, qualified, unqualified, lawyers, social workers but you should ensure the mediator you engage for family law issues is in fact a registered Family Dispute Resolution Practitioner under the Family Law Act and Regulations and he or she should also be a Nationally Accredited Mediator.  It is an added advantage that the mediator is a Queensland Law Society Accredited Family Law Specialist and a trained parenting coordinator, with almost 30 years experience in Family Law matters both as a mediator and as a lawyer.

Randal has a lifetime of experience and wisdom to help him help your client to get the most out of the mediation process.

Family Dispute Resolution

What is Family Dispute Resolution under the Family Law Act?

Family Dispute Resolution is the legal term for services (such as mediation) given to mediation by the Family Law Act and Regulations. Family Dispute Resolution helps people resolve their issues concerning arrangements for their children.

Who can provide Family Dispute Resolution?

Only approved Family Dispute Resolution Practitioners can provide these services and issue certificates under the Family Law Act.

An accredited Family Dispute Resolution practitioner is a person who meets standards contained in the Family Law  (Family Dispute Resolution Practitioners) Regulations 2008.

Is Family Dispute Resolution compulsory?

A person can only apply to the Family Law Courts for a parenting order when a certificate under Section 60I of the Family Law Act from an accredited Family Dispute Resolution practitioner unless one of the exceptions set out below apply. The requirement to participate in Family Dispute Resolution  applies to new applications, and applications seeking changes to an existing parenting order but not when filing consent orders with the Courts.

What are the exceptions?

There are some exceptions to this requirement where:

  • you are applying for consent orders
  • you are responding to an application the matter is urgent;
  • there has been, or there is a risk of, family violence or child abuse;
  • a party is unable to participate effectively (e.g., due to incapacity or geographical location), or
  • a person has contravened and shown a serious disregard for a court order made in the last 12 months.

If you want to apply to the Family Courts 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 the services that can help you from a family counsellor or Family Dispute Resolution practitioner.

Who can go to Family Dispute Resolution?

Usually only the people directly involved unless everyone agrees that other interest people can attend.  In private processes the lawyers of the parties may also attend. However in the case of government sponsored family relationship centres lawyers are not included.

Sad looking siblings with arguing parents behind them
Are children included in Family Dispute Resolution?

No, but child inclusive mediation services are available where a counsellor will speak to the children outside of the mediation process and report back to the parents and mediator. This needs to be assessed by the Family Dispute Resolution Practitioner and agreed to by the parties.

What information will a Family Dispute Resolution practitioner provide to the parties?

Before starting Family Dispute Resolution, the Family Dispute Resolution practitioner must tell the parties about the Family Dispute Resolution process, their rights (including the right to complain about the service), his or her qualifications, and the fees charged. When mediation parenting issues the Family Dispute Resolution practitioner must give information about parenting plans and other services available to help the parties.

What happens during Family Dispute Resolution?

Before Family Dispute Resolution can commence, the family dispute resolution practitioner will assess the circumstances to see whether Family Dispute Resolution is suitable for the particular situation.

Family Dispute Resolution practitioners are impartial and will not take sides. They can help explore family issues in an objective and positive way. Family Dispute Resolution concentrates on resolving specific disputes but it is not counselling. Family Dispute Resolution can help both of you to discuss issues, look at options, and work out how best to reach agreement. Importantly,  Family Dispute Resolution (mediation) can help develop a parenting plan to set out arrangements for the children.

Confidentiality in Family Dispute Resolution

Everything said during Family Dispute Resolution is confidential – except in certain circumstances, such as to prevent a threat to someone’s life or health or the commission of a crime. What is said during the process can’t be used in evidence in Court. A Family Dispute Resolution practitioner must report child abuse or anything that indicates a child is at risk of abuse, and this may be used as evidence in some circumstances.

Assessing Safety?

The parties to a mediation must feel safe, both before, during and after Family Dispute Resolution. Sometimes that means the process is conducted by telephone or in separate rooms. Sometimes the Family Dispute Resolution Practitioner might decide that a matter is unsuitable for mediation because of those safety concerns.  The process may be discontinued at any time the mediator decides that is the best course for the parties or where there must be compliance with the legislation.

What happens if an agreement is reached during Family Dispute Resolution?

If agreement is reached a parenting plan will be created.  A parenting plan must be in writing, dated and signed by both parents to be effective and recognised under the Family Law Act. Sometimes after a parenting plan is made one or both parties want to have consent orders made.  If this is the case then that application can be made to the Courts after the mediation but not during the mediation process.

Before applying to court you will need a certificate from an accredited Family Dispute Resolution practitioner.

The certificate will say one of the following:

  • the other party did not attend;
  • both parties attended and made a genuine effort to resolve the dispute;
  • the parties attended but one or both did not make a genuine effort to resolve the dispute;
  • the Family Dispute Resolution practitioner decided it was not appropriate for Family Dispute Resolution, or
  • the Family Dispute Resolution practitioner decides it was not appropriate to continue part way through the Family Dispute Resolution process.

In the event a party does not attend Family Dispute Resolution or make a genuine effort to attend, the Court can order that parties do attend and the court may also make a costs order against a party.

Mediation assists families to resolve issues regarding arrangements for their children in a collaborative way. The parents are assisted to create an agreement which they themselves have created and agreed upon.

Lawyers assisting the parties in a mediation have an obligation to assist their clients in the process and help them to resolve issues.

Randal Binnie

Professional Mediator | Parenting Coordinator | Family Dispute Resolution Practitioner & Family Lawyer

Randal Binnie, a leading Brisbane Mediator, is a partner of:

family lawyers