Family Dispute Resolution – Pre-Mediation Preparation Process


Pre-mediation is the first step in the Family Dispute Resolution Process which includes all phone and email communication and the pre-mediation session with one person.

About this service

The pre-mediation process is a mandatory part of the Family Dispute Resolution process. It is one or more meetings or contacts with you to discuss your situation.

The purpose is to make sure of four things:

  1. Is family dispute resolution the appropriate process for you to resolve the issues you have?  Family Dispute Resolution is a process to help you resolve issues to do with children, finances and property when you are separating or have separated from a former partner (married or defacto) and/or with another parent of your child. If you are not sure if you want to separate relationship counselling or relationship mediation may be a more appropriate process to try first.
  2. Is family dispute resolution safe for you and the other people affected? Your Family Dispute Resolution Practitioner will talk with you about a number of risks that may impact your ability to participate in family dispute resolution.  Any history of family violence will be discussed to work out whether that will affect your ability to negotiate freely and reach your own decisions. They will also ask you about any issues either of you have with regards to substance abuse or dependence, mental health issues or other issues.
  3. Are you OK and do you need any other help?  Your FDR Practitioner should have a current understanding of the other services in your area who may be able to help. That includes private, government and non-government services. The end of a marriage or de facto relationship is difficult and it is going to be better for you and better for your children if you make use of the support services that are available.
  4. Are you informed and ready to negotiate a resolution? It is very important that you understand your options and can make an informed decision about what to propose and what would be a reasonable settlement agreement.  Sometimes what you want is something that is very unlikely to be achievable, at least not immediately, so understanding the best and worst alternatives to reaching an agreement in mediation can help you be realistic and save you tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars chasing something that you can’t achieve through the court system.  This may mean that our FDR Practitioner will help you to prepare for legal advice, financial advice, financial counselling to discuss your debt situation, lending pre-approval or valuations.  There may be quite a bit to do to prepare for mediation if you have a lot of assets and a complex family or it may be quite simple to prepare. Your FDR Practitioner will talk through it with you.

How long does it take?

That depends on your situation and how complex the situation. We generally allow for an hour to an hour and a half video meeting or phone call.

Who goes first?

We generally start with the person who contacts us first. Our role is neutral so it doesn’t matter who our practitioner meets with first.  If you have strong doubts about the other person agreeing to participate in Family Dispute Resolution we may agree to contact them first to determine if FDR is going to proceed.

How long is your waiting list?

We don’t have a waiting list. You will be able to get started straight away when you work with Interact Support.

This is because we have an innovative approach to working with independent Family Dispute Resolution Practitioners based throughout Australia. These professionals provide some of their capacity to Interact Support to ensure that we can place your family with an appropriately qualified professional in a timely manner.

We also have an internship arrangement with Mediation Institute which allows new Family Dispute Resolution practitioners to gain work experience under the supervision of a qualified practitioner.  This arrangement provides financial support for our hardship program.

Is this all I need to be ready to proceed to mediation after this?

We recommend other steps to help you to prepare for Family Dispute Resolution, especially if you have dependent children.

New Ways for Families Online Post Separation Parenting Course

If you have children we strongly recommend that you do the online New Ways for Families Course. This doesn’t teach you the basics of parenting. It teaches you what you need to know about post-separation parenting because that is totally different to when you were together and working together.  Things change after separation. This course teaches you how to protect yourself and your children from conflict and your cast becoming a high conflict case stuck in the court system for years.

It teaches about how to manage your interpersonal challenges as well as current information about your children’s developmental needs and the Australian Family Law System – Find out more about New Ways for Families

If you would like the additional support of a certified New Ways for Families Coach you can also arrange that through Interact Support – New Ways Coaching

Pre-Mediation Coaching Session

Pre-mediation coaching is more in-depth and less neutral than pre-mediation preparation. You mediator will work with each of you impartially but a coach only works with one person from a couple and they are able to provide a higher level of individual support, challenge and accountability.

If you have been subjected to family violence and have a tendency to be accommodating or avoid issues rather than resolve them a  coach can provide significant support for you.

If you have been accused of family violence and have trouble managing your emotions and remaining calm a coach can help you to learn strategies to avoid escalation into angry behaviour that you may later regret.

There is an old say “a stitch in time saves nine” which applies to make use of the additional support services such as the New Ways for Families Course and Divorce Coaching.  If means spending a bit of money now on the information and support you need has a good chance of helping you avoid the adversarial family court and spending much more time and money in a process that will damage your co-parenting relationship for years to come and/or consume a sizable proportion of your asset pool.

You can book in for one or more pre-mediation coaching sessions.  Pre-Mediation Coaching 

What if they refuse to participate?

If you are seeking mediation for parenting agreements we will issue a section 60i Certificate if the other party refuses to take part in Family Dispute Resolution or the FDR Practitioner considers that FDR is not appropriate at this time.

We have the ability to safely facilitate mediation even if there has been family violence in the past using our high conflict methodologies that ensure that no family violence occurs during the mediation process or using a mediator facilitated negotiation process where there is no direct contact between you.  If there are issues to be resolved there is usually a way to achieve that.

What if I already have a section 60i Certificate from another service?

If you want to go to court a section 60i Certificate is valid for 12 months.

If you want to resolve the issues without going to court you can attempt family dispute resolution again even if you have a s60i Certificate.

You may have been given a certificate from a service who are not able to work with higher conflict cases.  At Interact Support we specialise in online mediation for higher conflict cases where a face to face mediation in the same room or building is not an acceptable process.

Important: generally we refer cases where you would like to meet in a room and negotiate your settlements to one of our panel and they work with you through their own business.  We do not refer to face to face services if there is a current family violence order.  During COVID-19 Pandemic Social Distancing all services are provided by video meeting, phone or mediator facilitated negotiation.

What if I can’t afford the fee?

We have hardship provisions in place to assist if you are not in a good financial position.  We offer a pay what you can option for pre-mediation with a minimum fee of $50.

If the other person is in a comfortable financial position we ask them if they will agree to pay for the mediation process.

  • Sometimes they agree on the basis that your half of the mediation fees will be a consideration in a property settlement.
  • Sometimes they agree because they want the issues resolved as much as you do and the cost of the mediation process is a worthwhile investment compared to the tens or even hundreds of thousands that a contested court battle would cost.

If you are both in a difficult financial position our hardship policy is “Pay what you can now, Pay if you can later” If your position improves we invite you to donate to Interact Support to help us to help others who are doing it tough as you are right now.

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by Joanne Law time to read: 6 min