Family Dispute Resolution Practitioners are neutral in regard to the parties and do not give legal advice. They assist parties to isolate the issues in dispute, develop and consider options to resolve the issues and if appropriate, to agree on one or more of these options. They help you to look at problems in an objective, positive and creative way.
All communications made in FDR are strictly confidential, enabling parties to express frankly their needs and concerns. If parties are unable to resolve their disputes at FDR and go to Court, the FDR practitioner cannot be subpoenaed to give evidence in court, nor can the parties lead evidence of anything said during the FDR process. Exceptions to the rule of confidentiality do exist and will be discussed with parties at the initial intake appointment.
FDR can be used independently of, or in conjunction with legal advice. It is the policy of Vanessa Simon Mediation to encourage parties to seek advice from a solicitor about their legal rights during the FDR process so that any agreement reached is a well informed agreement. Parties are able to consult their solicitors by telephone during the FDR process should the need arise. Agreements reached at FDR should be submitted to a solicitor to draft into an appropriate legally binding document and both parties should have the final document checked by his/her solicitor.
Parties will be provided with a written copy of any agreement reached at FDR. Agreements reached at FDR are not legally binding documents. Parties are advised to take the agreement/s to a solicitor to be drawn up into a formal document and to be registered with the Court where appropriate. In some cases, registration is required for agreements to become legally binding on the parties.
Where parties develop parenting plans which set out arrangements for their children they may wish to simply formalise the parenting plan by signing and dating it. Alternatively, they may wish to have the parenting plan drafted by a solicitor into minutes of consent orders which are then submitted to the family court where they are made into court orders.
As of 1 July 2008, all parties are required by the Family Law Act to attend family dispute resolution conducted by a registered family dispute resolution provider before they are able to institute court proceedings in regard to their children, or make changes to an existing parenting order. There are some exceptions to this requirement, such as cases involving family violence or child abuse. There are also numerous reasons why FDR may not be appropriate and it is up to the FDR practitioner to make a professional judgment in that regard.
In cases involving the division of assets and liabilities there is no legal requirement for parties to attend FDR. Accordingly, if one party refuses to attend the other party will have to make an application for property orders to the appropriate court. In cases involving children’s matters, if one party refuses the other party’s invitation to attend FDR for no valid reason, the inviting party may request the FDRP to issue a certificate confirming that he/she did not attend FDR but that his/her failure to attend was because the other party refused an invitation to attend FDR.
If parties are unable to reach agreement at FDR they may have to apply to the court to make orders in relation to their children and/or the division of their assets and liabilities. In cases involving children, parties who wish to go to court will be required to obtain a certificate from the FDR practitioner to confirm that the parties attended FDR but were unable to resolve their children's issues.
The mediation process involves each party attending an intake appointment with us. The intake appointment allows us to meet you, obtain some background of the dispute from your perspective and gain an understanding about what you hope to achieve. After this, the other party will be invited to participate in the same mediation process. If he/she agrees to participate then he/she will also attend an intake session (where we meet, obtain further background, understanding, perspective and goals). Once both parties have attended an intake session, joint mediation will be scheduled. We offer mediation in the same room (joint mediation) or mediation in separate rooms (shuttle mediation). In terms of the timing of these appointments, clients have the option to schedule all appointments (including both intake sessions and the joint/shuttle mediation) on the same day (which amounts to a full day mediation) or to schedule intake appointments first and then come to a joint/shuttle session on another day. We cater to all clients' wishes in this regard.