About Section 60I Certificates
As a Family Dispute Resolution Practitioner (FDRP for short) my role is help people resolve arrangements for their children and for property related matters. Unfortunately, some parties may see my role as the provider of Section 60I Certificates, i.e. not really seeking the outcomes that mediation can provide.
First, let me explain what Section 60I Certificates are in a nutshell.
The certificates are issued by FDRP’s under Section 60I of the Family Law Act and can be issued for the following reasons both before, during and after mediations regarding parenting matters (they don’t apply to property settlement or any other type of mediation):
- an invited party refuses to attend;
- the FDRP decided that it was inappropriate for the parties to attend mediation;
- the parties did attend and made a genuine effort to resolve the matters in dispute;
- the parties attended but one or both did not make a genuine effort to reach an agreement;
- the mediation was started but during the mediation the FDRP decided that it was inappropriate to continue.
So what does it mean to issue a certificate for any of the above reasons? The only purpose of Section 60I Certificates is to enable the commencement of Family Court proceedings which is why some people have an single purpose motivation when starting a mediation invitation process – they just want a certificate so they can go to court.
Often I receive responses to the effect that one or both parties can’t afford to pay all of the mediators costs and therefore refuse the mediation invitation. Curiously they often have solicitors acting for them. It is really a false economy to run off to court without first attempting mediation. In these cases a Section 60I certificate is likely to issue.
Mediation (family dispute resolution) doesn’t always end in a concluded final agreement. At times there is an agreement reached that the parties agree to have in place for a short time and agree to return to mediation after that time period. Sometimes an agreement can’t be reached at all and the parties then have no alternative but to go to court. Whatever happens at mediation it is not a process that will harm the future relationships of the parties as parents. Mediation really only has positive outcomes.
If mediation fails you will have a better idea of the concerns and issues being raised by the other party; you will be better placed to agree at some later point. Just because court proceedings are commenced it doesn’t mean the parties can’t reach an agreement before a trial. In fact very few matters are decided by a judge in comparison to those matters actually commenced in court (usually quoted at 95% of matters started in court do not end in a trial and judgment by the court).
Mediation can result in resolution but it is the parents who made the decision, in the best interests of their children, not a judge. Creating the parties own agreement is far better than having a judge make decisions for their children based purely upon statutory rules and previous decisions.
It is at the discretion of famiy dispute resolution practitioners whether or not to issue Certificates. Having said that it is not my role to prevent parents making application to the Family Courts where they believe that is necessary.