Family Dispute Resolution (FDR) is a structured process where the parties are guided by an impartial facilitator to achieve a mutually acceptable outcome for the issues arising from their separation.
How quickly can I arrange FDR?
Do I have to be in the same room as the other party?
As assessment as to the format of the Settlement Conference is made by the FDRP following the separate Intake Session and discussed with the parties. No parties are forced to be in the same room, but this is recommended at least for part of the time when the process is being described and other procedural aspects are being covered. It is preferred that important information is heard directly by the parties rather than conveyed to them by the FDRP, as the presentation of this information will have particular meaning for the parties and not for the FDRP, thus a significant part of the communication can be missed.
Can I have my lawyer with me?
Private FDR is a very flexible process and it is possible to agree upon a format that suits the parties in each case. If one or both of the parties wish to have their lawyers accompany them to the Intake Session or Settlement Conference, this can be arranged in advance. This decision would also have to be conveyed to the other party so that they can also bring their lawyer if they choose. Issues of balance of power and ability to fully participate in the process would need to be conveyed to all parties.
It is also possible to have access to lawyers before, between and after the Intake Session and Settlement Conferences, and access can be provided by phone or otherwise during the sessions.
Do I have to have legal advice prior to FDR?
No party is forced to obtain legal advice but this is highly recommended. When dealing with your legal rights and entitlements, it is important to know what these are so that you are doing so knowingly. This is crucial for long lasting agreements with firm commitments.
Can I go to FDR if I have an IVO?
You can only attend FDR where there is an Intervention Order (IVO) if there is an exception to allow for this. Most orders do have this provision as a standard clause. It is a relatively easy task to approach the Magistrates Court who granted the order and ask that the IVO be amended to include this.
Is an agreement reached at FDR legally binding?
An agreement reached at FDR is not of itself legally binding and therefore enforceable. An agreement can be drafted into a Parenting Plan if it relates to children, and into heads of Agreement if it relates to financial matters, by being written out, dated and signed by all parties. This then is no longer covered by the confidentiality of the process, and can be shown to the court for conversion into court orders. A signed document from FDR, will be regarded by a court when considering appropriate court orders.
Can I bring someone other than my lawyer to FDR with me?
It is possible to bring someone to FDR if this is discussed with the FDRP and agreed to by the other party. Consideration needs to be given to the impact of any particular person on the process overall including the necessary support for you and the reaction of the other party.
What can I discuss at FDR?
You determine the matters that are included on the agenda for FDR. These must arise from the separation, be issues that need to be sorted out between both parties, and be capable of future focus. The matters can include legal or non-legal issues.
Do I have to talk with the other party at FDR?
No party is forced to speak directly with the other party in FDR. In the early stages all communication takes place through the FDRP. Where parties are in the same room, it may be encouraged where appropriate that discussion commence directly between the parties.
Communication is a significant topic at FDR as it is the foundation for future parenting. If some clear and appropriate ground-rules can be established in FDR this can pave the way for more appropriate communication outside the process.
How can I be sure that information from FDR will not be used against me outside the process?
One of the ground-rules of FDR is the confidential nature of all discussions. This is provided in written material to the parties prior to the Settlement Conference and committed to by both parties in the FDR Agreement signed at the commencement of the Conference. This is also described by the FDRP in their opening statement, discussed in the presence of the parties and the subject of verbal commitment. If the parties cannot commit to this aspect then the process will not continue.
The courts do not allow evidence of anything said in FDR to be repeated in court, and other government organisations do likewise.
If one of the parties indicates in FDR that there is a risk of harm to a person or child, or likely damage to property or the commission of an illegal act, then the FDRP can break their promise of confidentiality to disclose this information.
Where can FDR take place?
The settlement conference or Intake Session can take place at the office of CFLSolutions or any other agreed venue. Where there are multiple participants such as the parties, support persons and/or lawyers, then arrangements can be made for a venue to be available at a cost at the Business Centre at the RACV Club in 501 Bourke Street, Melbourne or at the Dispute Settlement Centre at level 4, 456 Lonsdale Street, Melbourne. FDR can take place at the office of solicitors for the parties where this is agreed to by all parties, or at any other agreed venue.
What is Conflict Coaching and how might this assist me?
On some occasions, parties are anxious about participating in the FDR process and seek greater preparation to assist with thinking of the issues they wish to raise, to understand what the other side might put in FDR, and how they might be able to respond to this. There are occasions where the other party may refuse to attend FDR so there is a need for strategies to be developed to support more direct communication about separation issues. In other situations court orders have been obtained that require additional support and strategies to ensure that these can be implemented smoothly and easily.
Conflict Coaching can assist in all these situations.
Can my other trusted professionals have an input into the FDR process?
By consent, any professionals such as your GP, accountant, psychologist or coach can have an input into the FDR process. Arrangements can be made for them to participate directly in the process, or for you to telephone them at various stages during the Intake Session or Settlement Process. By agreement copies of Summaries of Sessions can be provided to them so that they can assist to support you in implementation.
They can be crucial in raising options, ideas or important factors that you have overlooked but they appreciate as important due to their involvement with you.
How many sessions are there in the FDR process?
There can be as many sessions as required. The basic process is set up to include one separate Intake Session for each party, and then the joint Settlement Conference. Experience has shown that a conference for half a day, allows sufficient time for all parties to say what is important to them, listen to what the others say, and then process the information and create ideas and options that may lead to mutually acceptable outcomes, including individual and joint time. This is a flexible process and where this is not appropriate, other arrangements can be made. Subsequent sessions can be arranged where more time is needed, or down the track for review and the development of longer term arrangements.