Understanding Dispute Resolution

What is Alternative Dispute Resolution?

When conflicts arise, whether they’re in the workplace or in the home, dispute resolution can provide a great platform for proactive discussions. Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) is an umbrella term for situations where an impartial practitioner helps to resolve a dispute between two or more people.

It exists outside judicial determination, meaning any decisions reached are not legally binding. The idea instead is that having a neutral third party to guide discussions enables people to work through issues without the stress, time or cost of court appearances.

The main forms of dispute resolution in Australia are mediation, arbitration and conciliation. All of these can be facilitated by qualified practitioners, whose role is to guide the conversation and ensure all parties have an opportunity to express their views. 

Family Dispute Resolution Conferences

When it comes to family disputes and conflict specific to children, one of the most common ways to reach an agreement is through a Family Dispute Resolution (FDR) Conference. The conference gives families an opportunity to resolve conflicts relating to parenting and children, without going to Court.

Common issues talked about in these conferences may include a child’s wellbeing (both physical and emotional) and development, care arrangements and the volume of time with the child will spend with both parent, communication with the child and as co-parents and any other pertinent issues and/or concerns relating to the family. 

Is Family Mediation legally binding?

No, as with other forms of dispute resolution, FDR conferences are not legally binding. That said, if the parties come to an agreement during a conference then solicitors can prepare an official agreement or parenting plan. These documents can then be filed at court. 

Read more about mediation, here.

What is the Dispute Resolution process?

The process of dispute resolution varies slightly depending on the context of the conflict.

Both ADR and FDR meetings involve facilitation by a qualified mediator and family practitioner assisting both parties to have a conversation about their issues. The parties may be separated into different rooms or brought together for an open discussion.

Either way, the ultimate goal is to reach an agreement that satisfies everyone. Once an agreement is reached, the mediator will formalise this by way of a written agreement.

Before seeking family dispute resolution, each party may wish to seek their own independent legal advice from a lawyer. This will ensure each person is prepared going into the meeting, with a clear idea of their desired result.

In property matters where parties are dividing their assets, this is strongly encouraged. Solicitors may be able to provide advice on the situation as well as suggestions for suitable proposals during the mediation process.

Why is Dispute Resolution so important?

Dispute resolution facilitates healthy discussion in a more supportive and less stressful environment. All parties involved in the conflict are given a platform to voice their concerns and guided towards a workable solution.

Although results cannot be guaranteed for everyone, it can produce meaningful outcomes by keeping the decision making in their hands rather if they go to court where a stranger, albeit a judge, makes the decision for the parties. 

How can Dispute Resolution assist me?

There are a variety of ways in which alternative dispute resolution and family dispute resolution may prove beneficial to you. Some particular advantages include:

  • Financial: it is far less expensive and more efficient than the court process.
  • Relational: it promotes cooperation and communication between parties, strengthening relationships.
  • Confidential: It is confidential to the extent of the law.
  • Mental: it creates less stress and anxiety than court proceedings. 
  • Longevity: it offers a platform for any future disputes to be resolved. 
  • Independence: it doesn’t impose any decisions on the parties, leaving it up to each individual’s control.

The alternatives to Family Dispute Resolution are to seek Arbitration (a less formal legal alternative than going to court), instruct lawyers to negotiate agreements on your behalf, commence court proceedings or resolve the issues directly yourselves.

Parties will not be able to proceed to court/litigation unless they have made a genuine effort to resolve the matters in dispute in mediation or in circumstances where mediation is deemed unsuitable pursuant to the Family Law Act 1975 (Cth).

How we can help you

In most cases, you can find a government-funded centre capable of providing ADR and FDR services.

However, there are typically long waiting periods (up to 5 months) and you are not supported by a mediator who is legally and psychologically trained. If you’re looking for a family dispute resolution practitioner or experienced mediating service, look no further than Meaningful Mediation.

At Meaningful Mediation we can provide family dispute resolution services to tackle a wide range of familial conflicts in a safe and supportive environment. For more information, enquire today. Our friendly team of experts are on hand to help you however they can.