Family Dispute Resolution (FDR)

Family Dispute Resolution (FDR) may be able to help you and your former partner reach an agreement about children or property issues. It can also be used when there are disputes with other family members (like grandparents or in-laws) spending time with the children, even if you and your partner have not separated.

Normally, you must try to participate in FDR before you can make an application in the Family Court for orders about your children, unless there is a good reason not to.

This information will help you to understand what FDR involves. Find out:

  • what disputes FDR can be used for
  • what happens in an FDR conference
  • how FDR fits with cases in the Family Court.

    What is Family Dispute Resolution (FDR)?

    FDR is a mediation process that normally involves you and your former partner meeting with a Family Dispute Resolution Practitioner (the FDR Practitioner) to try to sort out your family law issues. These issues might include:

    • who your children will live with after separation
    • how and when they will spend time with the other parent or family members
    • other matters about how the children are raised, such as what school they will go to, and
    • how property and finances can be divided.

    What happens in FDR?

    During an FDR conference, the FDR Practitioner helps you to discuss issues with your former partner, and any other family members who are involved in the dispute. The FDR Practitioner is independent and must remain impartial; they cannot give you legal advice or tell you what you should do.

    We recommend you get independent legal advice before participating in FDR, and before you sign any agreements that are made during the conference. 

    The FDR process involves:

    • identifying the issues
    • listening to each other's concerns
    • sharing all the relevant information
    • considering all ideas and options
    • talking through possible solutions
    • being ready to compromise.
    Are the things I say at in FDR kept private?

    What is said in an FDR conference remains private and confidential. The FDR Practitioner cannot tell anyone what you have said in FDR, including to the Family Court. There are some exceptions, including if it is necessary to protect:

    • a child from the risk of physical or psychological harm
    • a person from a threat to their life or health, or
    • property from deliberate damage or destruction.

    Things that are said to or in front of the FDR Practitioner cannot normally be used as evidence in the Family Court, unless it is necessary to give evidence that there has been or is a risk of child abuse.

    I'm thinking about starting a parenting case in the Family Court. Do I have to go to FDR?

    The Family Court says that you must try to reach an agreement about parenting disputes through FDR before you can start a court case for parenting orders (including to change or enforce previous parenting orders). You will have to give the court a certificate, signed by a FDR Practitioner, to show you tried FDR. Without a certificate, the court will not accept your application for parenting orders.

    There are some exceptions to this, including when there has been or is a risk of family violence or child abuse.

    What if we agree on something in FDR?

    If you resolve your family law dispute in FDR, you can turn it into a formal agreement in by creating a parenting plan, or filing a consent application for parenting orders with the Family Court. This makes sure everyone is clear about what has been agreed and makes it easier to deal with organisations, such as banks and schools. It also stops claims being made against you in the future.

    What happens if we can’t reach an agreement at FDR?

    If you can’t reach an agreement at FDR, you will be provided with a certificate that can allow you to start a parenting case in the Family Court. You should get legal advice before filing an application with the Family Court. 

    What if the other person refuses to participate?

    You can get a certificate from a FDR Practitioner if:

    • the other person refuses or fails to come to a FDR conference.
    • the FDR Practitioner believes it is not appropriate to start or continue with FDR, because of family violence, a risk of child abuse, or problems with the power and relationship dynamics between the parties, or
    • you both attend FDR, but someone doesn’t make a genuine effort to reach agreement in FDR. (The court might order you to try FDR again and failing to give a genuine effort in FDR may effect how the court makes decisions about legal costs.)

    Disclaimer

    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.