Resolving family law disputes

Separating couples will typically need to make decisions about care arrangements for their children and how to divide property. 

If you and your ex-partner have different views about what should happen, there are several ways you can try to resolve your family law dispute. 

Find out about different dispute resolution options available for separating couples including Family Dispute Resolution (FDR) and the advantages of trying to reach an agreement with your ex-partner without going to court. 

Quick Answers Video: Ways to resolve your family law dispute
video fact sheet icon Download the fact sheet for this video

What is a family law dispute?

A family law dispute is when you disagree with someone about things such as:

  • who your children will live with and how much time they will spend with each of their parents and other significant people in their lives, and
  • how property should be divided following separation.

Do I have to go to the Family Court if I have a family law dispute?

Many separating couples reach an agreement about children and property issues without going to court. However, sometimes going to court may be the only way to sort things out. This may include situations where:

  • there are urgent family law issues the court needs to make a decision about,
  • there has been family violence or child abuse or risk of these, or
  • you have tried but have been unable to reach an agreement with your ex-partner outside of court.

How can I work out my family law dispute without going to court? 

Some of the ways you can try to work out your family law dispute without going to court include: 

  • Negotiating – if you feel safe and comfortable talking to your ex-partner (or another person who you have a family law dispute with), consider setting up a meeting to try to talk through the issues together.

  • amica – a secure online resolution tool which can help separating couples reach agreement about both parenting and property disputes and record the agreement in writing. amica was developed by National Legal Aid.

  • Family Dispute Resolution (FDR) – FDR is a type of mediation that involves you and your ex-partner meeting together to try and reach an agreement with help from an independent Family Dispute Resolution Practitioner. In most cases the law requires people to attend FDR first before applying to the Family Court for orders about children. However, if there has been family violence or abuse or risk of these, you do not have to attend FDR.

  • Collaborative law – a dispute resolution process where you and your ex-partner and your lawyers make a commitment to work together towards an agreement using a cooperative problem-solving approach.

What are the benefits of reaching an agreement outside of court?

Some of the benefits of trying to reach an agreement about your family law dispute outside of court include:

  • saving money and time,
  • avoiding the stress and uncertainty of a court case,
  • avoiding your children being involved in a court case,
  • reducing the level of hostility between you and your ex-partner and improving communications, and
  • reaching an agreement that is likely to last longer, because you and your ex-partner made the decisions together.

Do I need to get legal advice if I am trying to work things out without going to court?

It is a good idea to get legal advice even if you are trying to work things out without going to court. Getting legal advice at an early stage about the law and how it applies to your individual situation will help when you are negotiating with your ex-partner. You should also get legal advice before signing any documents or transferring property.


Reviewed: 9 March 2022

Dispute Resolution at Legal Aid WA

We can help you work through family law problems without going to court, including arrangements for children and property settlements.


The information displayed on this page is provided for information purposes only and does not constitute legal advice. If you have a legal problem, you should see a lawyer. Legal Aid Western Australia aims to provide information that is accurate, however does not accept responsibility for any errors or omissions in the information provided on this page or incorporated into it by reference.