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How does Family Dispute Resolution work when family violence or child abuse is an issue?
Family Dispute Resolution (or mediation) is required by the Family Court under the Family Law Act 1975 (Cth) before you can apply for certain orders. That is, you have to make a genuine attempt to resolve the disputes through mediation, and a Section 60I certificate is provided as evidence of this (click here for further information). One exception to this requirement is if there are reasonable grounds to ascertain that family violence or child abuse has occurred, or there is a risk of it occurring. If this is the case, then you may not be required to attend Family Dispute Resolution.
Whilst Family Dispute Resolution is often a very effective method of resolving disputes, particularly in relation to parenting agreements where an ex-partner has been abusive or violent toward the other partner, then mediation may not be appropriate. The whole purpose of Family Dispute Resolution is to resolve disputes by enabling the parents to speak openly and participate in the process, guided by a skilled mediator. If one parent feels intimidated by or even frightened of the other parent, this purpose will be difficult to achieve. This is true for physical, emotional, financial and psychological abuse.
What are my options if there has been family violence?
If there has been family violence or child abuse, it is important that you seek both legal advice as well as support and advice from appropriate domestic violence services. If there are reasonable grounds for the Family Court to determine that it has occurred or that there is a risk that it will occur, then you are not required to attend Family Dispute Resolution, although you have the choice to attend Family Dispute Resolution if you wish to go ahead with mediation after seeking legal advice and domestic violence support.
What if I don’t attend mediation?
If you decide not to attend mediation, then you (or your legal representative) need to advise the Family Dispute Resolution Practitioner (or mediator). If the mediator determines that it is not appropriate for you to participate in the mediation because of the violence or because you (and/or your children) would be subjected to violence, then the mediator can issue a Section 60I certificate stating that mediation is not appropriate. You can then apply to the Family Court to have your matter resolved there.
What if I do attend mediation?
If you decide to attend Family Dispute Resolution, then the most important thing is that you are safe (and feel safe) throughout and after the mediation process. Where violence and/or abuse has been present during a relationship, it can affect your ability to mediate, as you may feel intimidated and afraid. It is essential that you advise the mediator, your legal representative, and any other services if you have been subjected to abuse or violence, so that they can assist you with feeling empowered throughout the mediation process.
At the individual intake session that you will have with us, it is important to voice any concerns that you may have about the mediation process, to allow us to assess if mediation is appropriate for you under these circumstances. This will also allow us to put in place safeguards for you before, during and after the mediation.
At any point throughout the Family Dispute Resolution process, if you are concerned about your safety (and/or your children’s safety), then advise us as soon as possible, so that the mediation may be terminated or does not go ahead, if that is the most appropriate course of action. We can assist with the process where family violence is an issue, by taking the following steps:
There are other practical steps that we can implement, to ensure that you feel safe, you can mediate effectively, and you do not feel under duress or intimidation.
To start the mediation process, simply complete the form:
More Information on Mediation & Family Dispute Resolution
- Family Dispute Resolution
- Parenting Plans
- Financial Agreements
- Child-Inclusive Mediation
- Section 60I Certificates
- Child Support
- Child Support Calculator
- De Facto Relationships & Separation
- Divorce & Mediation
- Grandparents & Mediation for Grandchildren
- Parenting Plan & Draft Consent Orders for Children
- Property Settlement at Mediation
- Mediation & Domestic Violence
- Relocation & Overseas Travel with a Child
- Going to the Family Court versus Mediation
- Family Dispute Resolution & Mediation
- Child Support & Mediation
DISCLAIMER: The information contained on this website is for general guidance only. No person should act or refrain from acting on the basis of this information. Professional legal advice should be sought based upon your particular circumstances, because laws and regulations undergo frequent changes.