Considering the back log of family law matters listed before the Courts; it is of little surprise that Judicial Officers are frequently referring parties to mediation and arbitration services as an alternate means to resolving their disputes.
In fact in 2006, the Family Law Act was amended by way of the Family law Amendment (Shared Parental Responsibility) Act 2006 to require all persons who have a dispute about children (under part VII of the Family Law Act) to first make a genuine effort to resolve that dispute by family dispute resolution before they can commence litigation.
Naturally there are exceptions, including but not limited to urgency or where the Court would be satisfied that there are reasonable grounds to believe that there has been or there is a risk of family violence by one of the parties. Subject to such exceptions, the Court cannot hear a Parenting Application without the applicant simultaneously filing s 60 I Certificate obtained from a Family Dispute Resolution Practitioner.
Mediation can be offered at a range of private and governmental institutions. For those experiencing financial constraints; Legal Aid NSW also offers grants for mediation and can arrange for parties to be legal represented during the mediation sessions.
There is a wide spectrum of family law dispute resolution mechanisms and mediation only one method, albeit most often adopted by parties, at least during the initial stages of a dispute. Other options include Counselling and Family Therapy, Conciliation Conferences, Case Appraisals and Arbitration. Each case must be assessed at its merits and in its own context to ascertain which process would be most suitable. The different options also require differing cost and time investment.
Even after initiating proceedings, the Family Court continues to encourage parties to negotiate at all stages and will often provide all those involved a number of opportunities to resolve their case by dispute resolution alternatives including Case Assessment Conferences, Child Dispute Conferences, the Less Adversarial Trial process, the Child Responsive Program and the Magellan Program for a certain category of family law parenting cases.
A more comprehensive guide to each FDR process will be provided over the coming weeks to educate parties who find themselves entangled in family law disputes.
In the meantime, feel free to contact Censeo Legal to discuss your family law matter including which FDR process would be most suitable for your circumstances.