Dispute resolution– what is it?

Dispute resolution refers to services that are designed to help you resolve your disputes without needing to go to court.

The Family Court of Australia and Federal Circuit Court of Australia use dispute resolution services (funded by the Australian Government) because they are an affordable and often quick option for resolving disputes, while allowing you greater control and management of the process and the outcome.

Where possible, you should seek legal advice before deciding what the best option for your dispute is. A lawyer will be able to help you understand your rights and responsibilities and can explain the law that applies to your case. They can also help you and your former partner reach an agreement without needing to come to court.

If you can’t afford a lawyer, the Family Relationship Advice Line offers free legal advice and information on services that may be able to help you come to an agreement. You can call them on 1800 050 321, or for more information visit www.familyrelationships.gov.au

You can also get free legal advice from a legal advice line or Legal Aid organisation in your state or territory. For contact details for legal aid services in your state visit www.accesstojustice.gov.au

Court staff cannot give you legal advice.

What kind of dispute resolution services are there?

In family law cases, you must make a genuine effort to resolve your disputes through dispute resolution services before you can apply to the courts for parenting orders and financial orders. The Court will not be able to hear an application for a parenting order unless a certificate from an accredited family dispute practitioner is filed with the application.

The Family Court requires people applying for financial orders to follow pre-action procedures including dispute resolution before being able to file an application. In the Federal Circuit Court people are encouraged to resolve issues they don’t agree about before filing any applications. In many cases parties will be ordered to attend dispute resolution before they file with the Court.

How do I find dispute resolution services and what does it cost?

To find a dispute resolution service provider in your area visit www.familyrelationships.gov.au, or call the Family Relationships Advice Line on 1800 050 321.

The cost of dispute resolution will depend on the provider, with private providers setting their own fees. Family relationship centres provide one hour of their services free and will charge after this depending on your financial situation. For more information on dispute resolution costs visit www.familyrelationships.gov.au/Services

We’ve reached an agreement. What’s next?

If you and your former partner have come to an agreement through dispute resolution then you can make a parenting plan or file consent orders with the Court.

For more information on parenting plans visit www.familyrelationships.gov.au

For more information about Consent orders see the Consent Orders kit.

Are there any exceptions?

Yes. In certain circumstances the courts may be able to grant you an exemption from certain requirements. For example, this will only occur if:

  • the matter is urgent
  • the courts have reasonable grounds to believe that family violence or child abuse has occurred/or there is a risk of this occurring.
If you think your matter meets these circumstances you should talk to court staff by using Live Chat, visit your local registry or call the National Enquiry Centre.
If you think your matter meets these circumstances you should talk to court staff by using Live Chat, visit your local registry or call the National Enquiry Centre.