Public or Private Family Dispute Resolution

If you are thinking about getting help to negotiate parenting or a property settlement following separation the first choice should be a Family Dispute Resolution Practitioner to assist.

Family Dispute Resolution is more empowering and the least expensive family law process option (even without government subsidies) and generally results in an outcome much quicker than attempting negotiation through lawyers. On average the process has about an 80% success rate in resulting in a resolution during the mediation process or shortly after. When a resolution is not reached it is generally due to a sticking point that one or both parties are just not emotionally ready to let go of. Sometimes they need time to be ready to agree or even have to face the reality of the family court system before common sense prevails and an agreement can be reached in the shadow of the family court.

While the success rate from Family Dispute Resolution is high even if it isn’t fully successful participating in a properly facilitated FDR Process will help participants to increase their understanding of their former partners current state of mind, will generally help them to deal with some of the pressing issues and reduce the size of the problem.

In Australia participating in FDR for parenting issues is mandatory unless an exception applies and is strongly encouraged for property settlement negotiations.

If you need a property settlement, a parenting plan or your current court orders are no longer workable then try Family Dispute Resolution. The first decision is between public vrs private family dispute resolution.

In Australia Family Dispute Resolution Practitioners are professional mediators with post-graduate qualifications in family law mediation. Sometimes mediators who have not done the training to become a family dispute resolution practitioner offer “Family Law Mediation” however we recommend that you do not work with these people. They are not qualified under the requirements established by the Family Law System.

If you are unsure if a mediator is a Family Dispute Resolution Practitioner ask them can they issue section 60i Certificates or look them up on the Australian Attorney Generals Department registry of FDR Practitioners. You can locate it here.

The directory lists the public services first and then the private practitioners if you search for who is available in your local area or you can search a specific practitioner by name. Most but not all of those who work in the public system or privately are listed so if you can’t find your practitioner on the directory you can contact the Attorney Generals Department to confirm if they are accredited. For verification of whether a FDR practitioner is accredited or not, please contact the FDR Accreditation Unit, Attorney-General’s Department on 1800 025 255 or email

The Publicly Subsidised System

We have a two tiered system in Australia where the government funds centres such as Relationships Australia and Family Relationship Centres to provide subsidised family counselling, family mediation and other related services at lower than market costs and even some limited services for free when people are eligible.

The downside of the system is that in many places it does not meet the demand so that long waiting periods may exist between contacting the service to request mediation and having the opportunity to participate in Family Dispute Resolution to try to negotiate a parenting plan or property agreement (not all services assist with property settlement negotiations)

If you are struggling financially then be prepared for a wait but there is help available at a price you can afford.

If you are able to afford professional fees which will generally be significantly less than your lawyers hourly rate then consider going private.

If you use a private system you will help take the burden off the public system, you will enjoy a more personalised and tailored service that generally provides greater flexibility in terms of appointment times and availability and still have the security of working with a highly qualified and registered family law mediator.

Independent Family Dispute Resolution Practitioners

Independent FDR Practitioners work directly with clients either through referral from other professionals or other clients who’ve worked with them or when family members find them through a web search on their websites or one of the directory sites such as the one Interact Support is building – Find a Family Dispute Resolution Practitioner.

All independent Family Dispute Resolution Practitioners must have an external complaint handling service which is usually through their professional body. These professional bodies such as Mediation Institute will usually provide a directory to make it easy for clients to locate their members if they are looking for a professional to work with. Mediation Institute Members Map

Independents often keep a manageable workload and can start working with families quite quickly avoiding the delay of the publicly subsidised system.


Some of the advantages of working with an independent FDR is that you are unlikely to meet other clients in waiting rooms. For many people this is an important aspect especially if you are living in a regional area and you’d like to keep things private. The process is confidential and the practitioner, public or private, won’t share information about you outside their organisation. Public services can’t do much about waiting rooms as they often have a number of clients there at once and use shopfront locations.

Individual attention

Most of the publicly funded services use a workshop style educational session with clients before you can proceed to mediation while private practitioners generally provide the information you need to participate effectively in family dispute resolution individually rather than requiring you to participate in a group workshop. All FDR practitioners have mandatory information they must provide you or make sure that you have been provided with.

Pre-Mediation Processes

Before family dispute resolution can begin all registered Family Dispute Resolution Practitioners must make sure that FDR is safe and appropriate. This part of the process is usually called pre-mediation or intake. Independents usually do this part of the process themselves so that you have the opportunity to get to know them and they can understand where you are both coming from. Some services use an unaccredited intake officer to conduct an intake process and provide the mediator with a file about you. In those services you will not meet the mediator until the day of your mediation. If that is a concern to you make sure you ask your public service who will be conducting the intake and preparation processes.

Video Mediation and Mediator Facilitated Negotiation

Some independent mediators (and even some services) are now making use of technology to make family dispute resolution more efficient and safer for people who have experienced family violence. If you are concerned about being in the same room or the same building with your former partner then using video mediation or even mediator facilitated negotiation are now viable options available through Interact Support and some independent FDR practitioners.

Find our more about our High Conflict Family Dispute Resolution options.

Choosing what is right for you

Why use private FDR Practitioners and not the government subsidised services?

It is a bit like the difference between going to a public hospital if you feel sick or booking into your non-bulk billing doctor. You are going to pay less if you go to the public hospital (although in FDR it won’t be free except in exceptional circumstances) but you may have to wait a lot longer.

Public or …

by Joanne Law time to read: 5 min
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