Family Dispute Resolution (FDR) and Mediation

Separated, or separating, parents must first try to reach agreement between themselves about the care of their children. If an agreement can not be made, the court requires parents to take part in Family Dispute Resolution (FDR) before they can apply to the court for a parenting order.  FDR is a specific process to help parents reach an agreement. FDR can also be called mediation.

FDR is a form of mediation where Family Dispute Resolution Practitioners (FDRP) assist the separating parties with negotiating the division of parenting matters (which sometimes can also include resolving matters regarding property division). This can happen with both parties in the same room, or in separate rooms.

If you reach an agreement in FDR you can then make a record of your agreement in a Parenting Plan or have Parenting Orders drafted.

In some circumstances, parents can apply to the Family Court without going through FDR if a matter falls within an exception including if there is or has been family violence, if there has been child abuse or there is a risk of child abuse, or if the matter is urgent.

A parent will need to show the court that they should be excepted from participating in FDR, but sometimes even if a court is satisfied that an exception applies, parents can still be ordered to participate in FDR.

The FDRP is responsible for providing parties with a Certificate if the FDR has been unsuccessful, if one party will not participate, or if the parties are exempt from FDR. This Certificate is to be filed in the Court when making a court application to resolve the matter. An FDRP cannot provide you with legal advice.

If you would like more information about Certificates or FDR you can find a fact sheet on the Family Court website, or if you are in WA you can find information and a fact sheet on the Family Court WA website.

Information regarding FDR can also be found on the Family Relationships Online website, or through contacting the Family Relationship Advice Line on 1800 050 321 (Monday to Friday 8am to 8pm, Saturday 10am to 4pm).

Differences between states

Northern Territory

For legal advice about consent orders you can contact the Central Australian Women’s Legal Service on 1800 684 055.

Depending on where you live, alternatively you could contact the Katherine Women’s Information and Legal Service on 08 8972 1712 or 1800 620 108 or the Top End Women’s Legal Service on 08 8982 3000 or 1800 234 441.

You can also contact the Northern Territory Legal Aid Commission on 1800 019 343.


For information about family dispute resolution in the ACT you can contact the Family Relationships Centre, Relationships Australia or the Conflict Resolution Service.

Western Australia

You can find more information about these matters on the Women’s Law Centre WA website. The Legal Aid WA website also has a lot of great information about family law.


You can contact the following organisations to arrange Family Dispute Resolution:

If you or your ex partner qualify for Victoria Legal Aid funding, you may go through their FDR process which is called Round Table Dispute Management (RDM).

You may want to get legal advice, before, after or during the FDR process and particularly if you are going to sign any agreements.

When you reach an agreement you are both comfortable with, it can be recorded as either a ’parenting plan’ or in ‘consent orders’. You should get legal advice before signing a parenting plan or consent orders.

South Australia

Relationships Australia holds an FDR (Mediation) service to help separating families resolve their family law disputes. This service includes education, information, counselling, dispute resolution, conciliation and group work to help couples who are separating to resolve their family law disputes. FDR endeavours to help separating couples reach agreements that are in the best interests of their children. Please contact your nearest Relationships Australia office.

Centacare provides FDR services to assist clients who are separating or separated on parenting issues, property settlement, parenting educating sessions or one-on-one management coaching. For enquiries, please contact Centacare on 08 8210 8200. Centacare has offices in Adelaide, Salsibury, Murray Bridge and Mount Gambier.