Family Court Mediation Process Explained

When a relationship that involves children breaks down, it is vital for the needs of the children to receive significant consideration. For this reason, couples who are separated and in the process of divorcing are strongly encouraged to cooperate and make decisions that are in the children’s best interests.

This is often accomplished by working through Family Court Mediation. The process is also referred to as Family Dispute Resolution (FDR) and effectively assists couples in working through circumstances surrounding their divorce.


What Happens During Family Court Mediation?

The FDR is designed to provide a safe space with an impartial overseer for divorcing couples to make decisions governing their children after the marriage is over.

The overarching goal of Family Court Mediation is to determine what will serve the best interest of the children and the future co-parenting of those children. Decisions will be made focusing on the children’s physical, emotional, and psychological well-being.

A Family Dispute Resolution Practitioner (FDRP) will work with both parties to keep them focused on their children and solutions that will maintain their children’s best interests.

If the parties cannot be in the same room, the FDRP will shuttle between them, back and forth until an agreement is reached.


Family Court Mediation Process

  1. The process of mediation begins with opening statements. During this time, each parent can express their concerns, hopes, and goals for the children’s future. This often sets the stage for positive and cooperative interaction between the former spouses.
  2. The FDRP will lead joint discussions between the parents, allowing each ample time to explain their perspectives. From there, the practitioner will point out shared goals and similar ideas to help the former spouses find common ground.
  3. Private discussions may occur if the FDRP believes the parties will benefit from individual discussions to help explain the other parent’s position. Additionally, other issues may be brought to light at this time.
  4. Actual negotiations begin as the mediator facilitates discussions that will lead to compromise and problem-solving.
  5. If the negotiations succeed, the former spouses will settle the FDR, and a judge afterwards may formalise their agreement if it is in line with the children’s best interest, addressing relevant risk factors.


What Happens When We Reach an Agreement?

Once you and your former partner reach an agreement, your FDRP will draft a parenting plan or an agreement in principle, that contains your joint decisions. If financial provisions are to be included, then heads of agreement (a document summarising those financial portions) must be drafted as well.

It is best to have your lawyer review any agreements reached in mediation, to ensure that your interests are served before the documents become court orders.

When all matters are agreed upon, the plan goes before a judge, where it is formalised, and the agreement is now an enforceable court order.


Tips To Prepare for Family Court Mediation

The unknown can be unsettling, and it is normal to feel some concern prior to your Family Dispute Resolution. However, if you are well prepared, you may be able to relax and likely get better results. While there are a number of tips to help you get ready, your first step should be contacting a lawyer with experience in Family Law matters. They can apprise you of your rights and obligations as you move forward.

  1. Organise relevant paperwork ahead of the meeting with your Family Dispute Resolution Practitioner (FDRP). You will get information regarding what is necessary. Typically, your practitioner will need to see, a case outline, or mediation paper, containing, information about:
    1. Asset pool;
    2. Debts;
    3. Relevant issues in dispute; and,
    4. Legal proceedings that impact the FDR, including any relevant family violence order in places
  2. Decide what are your priorities prior to mediation and what is not of primary importance to you, because with mediation, you need to remember that you will almost certainly need to make a few concessions. Plan ahead of time what matters most to you before you meet.
  3. Keep your emotions in check. You should speak and act in a respectful manner both inside and outside the FDR. Avoid immature behaviour and stay focused on your goals for a resolution of the dispute.
  4. Be willing to listen to what your former partner has to say and consider the options. Ask for clarification if you are unsure about anything. You can also take a short break to collect your thoughts before making a final decision.
  5. Avoid posting anything on social media about your mediation, or the dispute in general. There are strict guidelines on the mediation process and the confidentiality of those conversations. Social media posting and gossip should be avoided in all instances. Treat your mediation in strict confidence, speak only with your lawyer, support person (if relevant) and/or other professional advisors required to assist you.
  6. Exercise your right to feel safe during this time. If you do not feel safe, alert your FDRP before your mediation. There are other arrangements for your FDR if you do not want to be in the same room as your former partner.
  7. Be open-minded during your FDR. Your goal is to resolve your disputes, and concessions will likely be involved. Listen to reasonable offers, and be sure to make fair requests.



Is Family Law Mediation Mandatory?

Mediation is strongly encouraged for parties experiencing disputes. However, if the case involves separating parents, attending mediation is required before applying for parenting orders through the Family Court, unless there are grounds of urgency which may merit the bypassing of mediation. Speak with a lawyer if you feel your matter is urgent to get legal advice on the necessity of mediation, before seeking interim orders from the Family Court.

Why Should I Do Mediation and Not Go Straight to Court?

When a couple is making decisions regarding parenting orders, the Court requires them to attempt mediation before they proceed to Court. Parties do not have an automatic right to commence Court Proceedings without engaging in relevant pre-action procedures unless there are exceptional circumstances. Court should be seen as a last resort for the parties. Parents generally know and understand their children and the family dynamic best. It is generally assumed that parents are in the best position to make decisions that will serve their children best.

The Family Courts, have the power to make decisions for parenting and property matters, should the matter proceed through litigation, but this process otherwise puts third parties in the position of assisting the parties to make decisions about the children that may impact the family and the child in ways not originally intended. Separating parties have the most control over their lives in most circumstances where they genuinely try to resolve their disputes through a mediation process. Courts offer another pathway to resolve matters, but the parties often lose some control over the process of the resolution of the dispute.

Is Mediation Only for Parenting Matters?

While mediation is a successful method of resolving parenting matters, it is also valuable for other areas of dispute, such as,

  • Workplace disputes
  • Financial disputes
  • Civil disputes
  • Commercial disputes
  • Property disputes
  • Planning and environmental disputes


Family Court can often be an emotionally charged and significant occurrence; so, it is not surprising for those who take part to be somewhat unnerved by the process. The best way to deal with your concerns about Family Court is to work with a compassionate lawyer having years of experience working within the Family Court, like the team at My Legal Crunch Lawyers.

Whether you are dealing with Family Law or another practice area, our team can ensure you are treated fairly and will strive to get you the best possible outcome. If you need assistance or have general questions, do not hesitate to contact us. Our professional lawyers will work tirelessly to resolve your issues.