Resolving Family Disputes
Australian law requires separating families who are in conflict about their children to make a genuine effort to try to resolve their dispute through a family dispute resolution process (similar to mediation) before they are allowed to file an application for parenting orders in a family court.
This requirement applies to anyone wanting to file an application for new orders, as well parties wanting to make changes to an existing parenting order. There are only a few exemptions to this requirement, those cases involving family violence, child abuse or urgency.
Unless an exemption applies, parties who are seeking to have a parenting matter determined by a court need to file a certificate from an accredited Family Dispute Resolution Practitioner (FDRP). The certificate is issued under Section 60I of the Family Law Act 1975 and is commonly known as a Section 60I Certificate.
What is a Family Dispute Resolution Practitioner (FDRP)
A family dispute resolution practitioner (FDRP) is an independent person who helps people affected by separation or divorce to resolve their parenting disputes.
FDRPs are accredited by the federal Attorney-Generals Department. To be called an FDRP a person must meet the accreditation standards in the Family Law (Family Dispute Resolution Practitioners) Regulations 2008.
FDRP Accreditation Criteria
The criteria for accreditation as an FDRP include:
- having appropriate qualifications and competencies, including competency in screening and assessing families for family violence and child abuse
- having access to a suitable complaints mechanism that can be used by your clients
- having a national police check no older than four months
- not being prohibited under a law of a state or territory from working with children
- meeting the ‘working with children’ requirements in the state or territory that you provide services, if applicable
- being suitable to perform the functions and duties of an FDR practitioner
- being covered by professional indemnity insurance.
Practitioners can meet this accreditation requirement by:
- completing the full Vocational Graduate Diploma or Graduate Diploma of Family Dispute Resolution (or the higher education provider equivalent) or,
- have an appropriate qualification and competency in the six compulsory units from the Vocational Graduate Diploma or Graduate Diploma of Family Dispute Resolution (or the higher education provider equivalent) or,
- have accreditation under the National Mediation Accreditation Scheme (see information below about NMAS) and competency in the six compulsory units from the Vocational Graduate Diploma or Graduate Diploma of Family Dispute Resolution (or the higher education provider equivalent) or,
- were included in the Family Dispute Resolution Register on 30 June 2009 and achieved competency in the three specified units (or higher education provider equivalent) before 1 July 2011.
Productivity Commission recommendation
In its report (published 3 December 2014) on Access to Justice Accessibility the Productivity Commission recommended (Recommendation 24.5) that the Australian Governement should extend the requirement to undertake family dispute resolution before taking a dispute to the family law courts to property and financial matters.