Frequently Asked Questions

Is the agreement we reach at family dispute resolution legal?

If you reach an agreement about children, the family dispute resolution practitioner or FDRP will write up the terms of the agreement.  If parents sign and date a written agreement about their children, the agreement will be a Parenting Plan. If the Family Court later hears the case and makes parenting orders, the Family Court will have regard to the terms of the most recent Parenting Plan if doing so would be in the best interests of the child.

If you want a legally enforceable agreement about children, you can take the written agreement reached at family dispute resolution to a lawyer who can prepare a Form 11 Application for Consent Orders and a Minute of Consent Orders to be filed in the Family Court of Western Australia.

If you reach agreement about property or child support, you can consider the options of formalising your agreement into Family Court orders, a Limited or Binding Child Support Agreement or a Binding Financial Agreement.

Australian Law Reports

Can I bring my lawyer?

If I assess it as being appropriate, you can have a lawyer present during your family dispute resolution for either children’s issues or property settlement issues.  If you want to have a lawyer present, you should tell me at your Intake and Assessment session.  It may or may not be appropriate if only one person is going to have a lawyer present.

It is a good idea to get some initial legal advice from a lawyer prior to participating in family dispute resolution.

Certificate

Can my child be involved in the Family Dispute Resolution in any way?

If is is considered appropriate by the Family Dispute Resolution Practitioner, we can conduct child-inclusive family dispute resolution (also known as child informed family dispute resolution) at the request of both parents.

We work with an experienced Child-Inclusive Practitioner (CIP) who can speak to your child and find out how the conflict between your child's parents and other family members or carers is impacting on them.  She will conduct a short interview with each parent, a child-inclusive session with your child or children and then a further joint session is held at which both the Child-Inclusive Practitioner and Family Dispute Resolution Practitioner are present.

The additional cost of the child-inclusive practitioner is $400 including GST.  If you wish for your family dispute resolution to be child-inclusive, you can raise this as a matter for discussion at your first Joint Session.

What if my former partner refuses to attend for family dispute resolution?

Family dispute resolution is voluntary.  You generally can’t make someone go to family dispute resolution with you; however, the Family Court can order parties to a case to attend family dispute resolution.

If your case involves children and your former partner refuses to attend, you may be provided with a certificate which allows you to file an initiating application in the Family Court of Western Australia.

What if we don’t reach an agreement?

The family dispute resolution practitioner (FDRP) will write up whatever is agreed.  Even if there is no final agreement, you may be able to agree on some things in the short term.  You can then get a certificate which allows you to file an application in relation to children’s issues in the Family Court of Western Australia.

You can then get legal advice and work out if you want to:

  • Leave it for now and try again later
  • Try more family dispute resolution with someone else
  • Start or continue Family Court proceedings and ask the Court to make the decision

What if we reach an agreement and make decisions together about our child?

If you reach an agreement with your former partner, you can consider either:

  • an informal and flexible agreement between you and your former partner;
  • a signed and dated Parenting Plan which can be as simple or as comprehensive as the two of you wish; or
  • legally binding Family Court orders.

What is best in each family may vary.  Family dispute resolution is not simply about trying to get Family Court orders.  It might be about you and your former partner discussing and considering issues about your parenting and children and assisting you and your former partner to develop ways of communicating so that you can constructively resolve conflict and discuss issues that arise in the future.

Violence Restraining Order

I can’t contact my partner because there is an interim or final violence restraining order.  Can we still do family dispute resolution for children or property?

It depends on the terms of the violence restraining order.  There is usually, but not always, a clause in the order that allows the parties to participate in family dispute resolution as defined in the Family Law Act 1975 (Cth) or the Family Court Act 1997 (WA).

If there is such a clause, you can contact Benn for an Intake and Assessment session and bring the violence restraining order. Benn may then invite the other person in for an Intake and Assessment session for family dispute resolution.

Family dispute resolution may sometimes be inappropriate in these cases and special arrangements like shuttle mediation may need to be arranged.

Is there a cheaper option?

The Family Relationship Centres offer family dispute resolution about children which is subsidised by the government. Some of the Family Relationship Centres require attendance at a number of appointments over a period of months prior to any joint session. For example:

Waitlist → Intake and Assessment → Children First Group Session → Joint Session

or

Intake and Assessment → Child Focus Session → Joint Session

or

Children in Focus Session → Intake and Assessment → Joint Session

You can ring a Centre directly and ask what process they have and how long it might be before a joint session is held.

Private family dispute resolution with Benn allows parents or separated couples to receive personalised attention from an experienced practitioner for their entire family dispute resolution, with flexibility in scheduling days/times and the availability of prompt appointments.

I don’t know where my former partner is or how to contact them. Can I still do family dispute resolution?

I need to be able to invite the other person in.  I need an email address or a postal address to be able to invite them.  If you don’t know of an address, you can try the White Pages directory, search the Commonwealth electoral roll or apply to the Family Court of Western Australia for a Location Order.

Are things said during family dispute resolution confidential?

Yes.  The FDR process allows parties to frankly and privately discuss their needs and concerns.  The things that are said during the family dispute resolution are generally inadmissible in Court.  There are some limited exceptions in relation to an admission or disclosure that a child has been abused or is at risk of abuse.

This also means that the family dispute resolution practitioner will not prepare a report for you or your former partner to help in Court or give evidence to a Court about what was said during FDR.

I work during business hours. Do I have to take time off work for appointments?

Benn may be able to schedule your sessions after business hours or on Saturdays depending on availability.

Family Court of Western Australia, Counselling Service

I want to improve my marriage or get back together with my former partner. Can you help?

I conduct family dispute resolution in a way that is sensitive to any person’s wish to reconcile, but family dispute resolution is not couples therapy or marriage counselling.  If this is what you want, you might find a Family Counselling service from the link below:

http://www.familyrelationships.gov.au/searchpages/searchpage.aspx?KEYWORD=COUN&RESOURCETYPES=Service

I just got a letter from you inviting me to family dispute resolution. I don’t want to do family dispute resolution because my former partner was abusive to me or my child. What happens if I don’t come to see you?

If a party refuses or fails to attend for their Intake and Assessment session or their Joint Session, Benn can issue a 'certificate (a)' that allows a person to file an application in the Family Court of Western Australia and which says you refused or failed to attend.  The certificate may be relevant to any decision the Court makes as to the legal costs incurred by the parties.

If a party attends their Intake and Assessment session and reports the abuse to Benn, Benn may or may not assess family dispute resolution as being inappropriate.  If this is the case, Benn can issue a 'certificate (b)' stating that family dispute resolution is inappropriate and terminate the process.  He can also provide you with information and referrals to people who may be able to assist you.

Whatever you decide to do, you should get legal advice either from a private lawyer, a Community Legal Centre or from Legal Aid WA.

You were my lawyer or you acted for my former partner in earlier Family Court proceedings. Can you provide me and my former partner with family dispute resolution?

No. There is a conflict of interest.

Application for Consent Orders

My case involves someone who is not a parent of a child. Can I do family dispute resolution?

Family dispute resolution can involve any person who may wish to apply for parenting orders or other orders in the Family Court of Western Australia, including:

  • either or both of a child’s parents;
  • a child;
  • a grandparent of the child;
  • any other person concerned with the care, welfare or development of a child; or
  • a person with an interest in the property of a separated couple who have not finalised their financial affairs.

Only one of us is in Perth and one of us lives somewhere else. Is family dispute resolution still practicable?

Family dispute resolution can be done between people over the telephone. However, it is usually more effective if both people attend their joint session together.

My lawyer is already handling my case in the Family Court. Is family dispute resolution still appropriate?

You can try family dispute resolution for either children or property if you want to and the other person agrees to attend.  You can continue Family Court proceedings and try family dispute resolution at the same time.  It might save you legal fees if you reach an agreement.  You should tell your lawyer first that you are thinking about family dispute resolution.  If you ask me and it is appropriate, your lawyer can attend your family dispute resolution with you.

I have more questions. Can I talk to you?

You can call me on 0413 856 299.  You can leave a voicemail if I’m busy and I’ll get back to you.

Contact Details

Benn Hill

ECU Business Centre
Unit 18, 15 Barron Parade

JOONDALUP  WA  6027

0413 856 299
(08) 9301 1438

benn@bennhill.com.au


Benn Hill - Barrister & Solicitor

Experienced, legally trained and child-focused

  • Professional & personal service
  • Prompt appointments
  • Mediation sessions may occur even if one party has a violence restraining order in place
  • Competitive pricing
  • Section 60I certificates