Listen generously
Think productively
Speak moderately
Decide wisely
Conclude satisfactorily

Illustration by Felicita Sala
Family Dispute Resolution (FDR) Mediation

When you are involved in a dispute with your former partner, it can be difficult to imagine having a frank discussion about the issues. It can be even more difficult to imagine reaching a satisfactory outcome. In FDR Mediation, however, you can have a frank and respectful discussion and reach long term practical outcomes that are satisfactory for your children, you, your former partner and other family members.

This page and the FDR Mediation FAQs provide a comprehensive overview of FDR Mediation for you, the other people involved and your professional and personal advisors so that you each have access to the same information

FDR Mediation is specialised mediation for when you are separating or have separated. It is almost always suitable for making decisions about family relationships, living arrangements and financial arrangements. FDR Mediation is guided by an accredited and registered Family Dispute Resolution Practitioner.

People select FDR Mediation when they want the outcome to be satisfactory for all the people who will be affected. Australia-wide, over 80 per cent of FDR Mediations reach and sustain satisfactory outcomes regarding arrangements for your children. FDR Mediation can equally be used for property and other issues.

FDR Mediation is a respectful, robust process that can assist you with

  • decision-making
  • resolving disputes
  • making agreements

FDR Mediation gives you and your former partner the opportunity to

  • hear the other person/people
  • be heard by the other person/people
  • consider a wide range of options
  • make decisions about the future

FDR Mediation tends to bring out the best in people. That’s why you and your former partner can make decisions in FDR Mediation constructively, effectively and harmoniously. The agreements you reach are the agreements that you decide to reach so they are personalised, practical and durable.

You are welcome to phone or email me to discuss your circumstances and FDR Mediation. If you would first like to find out more about FDR Mediation with me please read on.

Finding your way around Family Dispute Resolution (FDR) Mediation

This page is designed to assist you to consider whether FDR Mediation may be suitable in your current or future circumstances. I welcome your email or phone call to discuss your specific questions and any concerns.


This website contains general information. If you would like personalised information specific to FDR Mediation, please contact me.


Margaret Halsmith

My role is to provide best practice FDR Mediation. That way you and your former partner and any other people that you each agree will be involved, can participate in a series of productive future-focused conversations.

My experience has shown me that the structured process of FDR Mediation works. With my assistance you are more able to listen generously, think constructively, speak moderately, decide wisely and then to conclude your FDR Mediation satisfactorily, putting your best foot forward.

My approach is to facilitate with evenhandedness throughout your mediation: to listen respectfully to what is said; to think compassionately about what I hear; to speak practically and optimistically as I assist you to reach agreement and then to conclude sincerely.

My aim is to provide the optimum conditions for you and your former partner to participate in a fair process. That way you will be able to look back with confidence on your FDR Mediation and on the outcomes you have reached.

In over 17 years of mediating agreements with people who are separating, a number of participants have told me that their FDR Mediation has included some  moments that were particularly significant for them. Sometimes this happens when one person spontaneously compliments another. Sometimes it happens when one person discovers that the other does know what is important to them. Sometimes it is when consideration shines through as agreement is reached. It is these glimpses of ‘grace under pressure’ that foster my optimism about people’s capacity to make their own decisions.

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Selecting Family Dispute Resolution (FDR) Mediation

People who are separating choose FDR Mediation when they want all involved to have their fair say, in a fair way.


Mediation success rates

The Productivity Commission’s Access to Justice Arrangements Report of December 2014 gives examples including
“Legal Aid NSW Family Dispute Resolution achieved a full or partial settlement rate of 81 per cent in      2012-13.
Annual reports of the Office of the Victorian Small Business Commissioner indicate that around 70 to 80 per cent of matters resolve at mediation.”

Elsewhere it is indicated that

'In wills (disputes), mediation has a claimed success rate of between 85% and 90%.'


FDR Mediation is successful because

  • it is a fair and a dignified way to discuss your issues and to make wise decisions.
  • it is people-focused rather thanlegally-assisted; focussing on yours and your former partner’s concerns.
  • the decisions are made by the experts: by you and your former partner.

FDR Mediation

You have choices when you decide to resolve conflict. You can focus on your rights and apply the ruleswhile others focus on their rights and apply their rules; you can use your authority for making decisions and compete with other people who are using their decision-making authority; or you can ask people about their concerns, listen for what is important to them, then explain your concerns and what is important to you.

Each person has very similar rights, so rights tend to clash. Each person has a unique perception of how power is appropriately used, so power tends to struggle. Each person has concerns. Concerns tend to come together and can usually be resolved with a mutually satisfactory outcome.

The FDR Mediation process melds concerns to create mutually satisfactory outcomes.



You can find examples of some of the mediations I have conducted in a range of circumstances on the Case Studies page.

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Benefits of Family Dispute Resolution (FDR) Mediation

People who have mediated their separation agreements with me explain what they appreciate:

Meets the needs of our children

  • provided ongoing sense of family because parents are ‘on the same page’
  • set a good example because our children see constructive conflict resolution

Shares our property according to our circumstances

  • considered our needs because that is the focus of FDR
  • included our sentimental items because they were meaningful to us

Makes good use of time and money

  • saved costs because we used our time efficiently and most costs were shared
  • was timely because it was all sorted out within a few weeks of starting

Puts the situation in perspective

  • helped us to see the whole dispute because all the issues became clear
  • helped me to speak openly about all my concerns because mediation is confidential

Results in outcomes that will last because agreements are made about all the issues

  • was respectful because each person’s point of view contributed to our agreements.
  • gave us a way to avoid future conflicts because our agreements include guidelines for future discussions.

The Family Court of Western Australia lists the following advantages of FDR Mediation over litigation:

  • you greatly reduce the financial and emotional costs of a legal battle
  • you make your own decisions
  • your continuing relationship as parents is likely to work better
  • you are able to move forward and make a new life for yourself
  • you may improve communication with your former partner and be better able to resolve disputes the future

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Selecting your Family Dispute Resolution (FDR) Practitioner

When you and your former partner have decided that you will consider mediation, your next step is to select your FDR Practitioner. Family Relationships Online explains ‘Who can provide FDR?

It is wise to choose a FDR Practitioner who you can each get along with because rapport between everyone in the room significantly influences the tone, the flow and the outcome of your FDR Mediation.

It is important that the FDR Practitioner is acceptable you and your former partner. There are a number of starting points for making your selection. It can be a positive first step if you can select your FDR Practitioner cooperatively. Some people, however, decide individually to meet with the FDR Practitioner before mentioning it to their former partner. Others obtain general agreement to mediate then one person selects the FDR Practitioner. Others decide on their FDR Practitioner together. Cooperation is the key, whether before, during or after you make your selection.

The outcome of your FDR Mediation is likely to be a set of very significant decisions with long-lasting implications. It is wise to choose a FDR Practitioner who has experience, professionalism and people skills and who will focus on the process while guiding you to focus on your outcomes.

You may like to read my post in my Mediation Musings blog on the topic of Selecting your Mediator which applies equally to selecting your FDR Practitioner.

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Family Dispute Resolution (FDR) Mediation with Margaret Halsmith

Each FDR Practitioner brings their style to their FDR practice. You will find information below about my style: my philosophy, my experience, my professional and practical style. It may assist you to decide whether FDR Mediation with me is for you. I welcome your phone call or email to discuss your specific questions and any concerns.

Margaret alternating between participants in joint session; lawyer observing.                         Image Credit: Dale Neill

My philosophy

I regard you and all people as

  • experts in your own lives
  • proactive and forward thinking
  • decision makers in their best interests

My FDR Mediation practice has a number of building blocks: specifically aiming for best practice FDR and all forms of mediation; and generally aiming for peaceful resolution of conflict; dispute resolution education and training and dedication to various public roles.

My experience

I have been mediating with families since 1996; mediating agreements for people from all walks of life in a broad range of family issues:  for current and ongoing co-parenting arrangements for children, including living arrangements, holidays and travel, time spent with extended family, education, health and how any changes are made to these arrangements. For more details see About.

I also have extensive experience mediating a wide variety of property agreements.This includes houses, vehicles, household contents, bank accounts, businesses, shares, superannuation and more. It involves establishing a clear list of the individually and collectively owned assets and debts, gathering information and explanations to develop an understanding of all,considering how their values will be agreed then making decisions that take into account the circumstances of each of the people affected. 

When there are children’s issues to decide, the children’s needs are front and centre of each topic under discussion that directly or indirectly affects them.

My professional style

When mediating, I strive to be highly professional at all times. Each person in each FDR Mediation has my full attention throughout each FDR Mediation session.

Part of my professionalism involves  maintaining and extending my knowledge and skills through CPD (Continuing Professional Development). I focus on practice-with-integrity. My goal is to provide best practice FDR Mediation at all times. My values align with the Resolution Institute Code of Ethics and the International Mediation Institute Code of Professional Conduct. At present I am a member of the Executive of a group which plans to develop a Code of Conduct specifically for Family Dispute Resolution Practitioners.

My personal style

I am a people person. I find that I connect with most people most of the time including in very difficult and stressful circumstances. I aim to practice FDR professionally and authentically by being genuine, supportive and flexible.

My practical approach

My approach reflects my mindset  that you and your former partner are each unique and each equal. I think of you each as being right, uniquely right, and as  having decided to make some  practical decisions which take account of new each being uniquely and differently right. 

My approach is to assist you, your former partner, the personal support people and the professional advisors, if present, to contribute to maintaining the tone of equality and cooperation throughout your FDR Mediation.

After your individual initial separate sessions I book three FDR Mediation sessions which may or may not all be needed. In the intervals between sessions I respond promptly to emails and phone calls. I check in with you that I am answering your questions clearly. I take care to maintain my evenhandedness at all times and I ask for your feedback throughout your FDR Mediation.

My approach to your FDR Mediation is to manage the process so that you and your former partner can listen generously, think productively, speak moderately, decide wisely and conclude satisfactorily. At the start I provide an overview of the process and as you progress through your FDR Mediation I explain each stage in more detail.

It is my responsibility to manage the process; it is your responsibility to raise the issues for discussion and to participate in a guided discussion toward a resolution for each issue.


It is also my responsibility to check regularly with you regarding whether you think you are making progress toward satisfactory practical and durable outcomes. It is your responsibility to give me feedback on your assessment of the progress toward outcomes for you and your former partner and any other people involved.


My accreditations

  • Accredited and registered FDR Practitioner [Attorney General’s Department; Australia]
  • Accredited Mediator NMAS [National Mediator Accreditation System; Australia]
  • Accredited Mediator Advanced LEADR [Association of Dispute Resolvers; Australasia]
  • Accredited Mediator IMI [International Mediation Institute; The Hague, Netherlands]
  • Appointed Mediator under Aged Care Act 1997 (Cth) and Principles 1998 -2008

More information

You can read my Testimonials here and read more about me and my practice here. You can read examples of some of the mediations I have conducted in a range of circumstances on the Case Studies page.

This page with the FDR Mediation FAQs provides a comprehensive overview of FDR Mediation. You can find more information about FDR at Family Relationships Online here.

You can find more short descriptions of Mediation on my Twitter feed 

I welcome your email or phone call.

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Your outcomes

FDR Mediation provides you and your former partner with the opportunity to achieve practical outcomes including written agreements and personal outcomes including how to manage any further conflicts. Most participants in most FDR mediations reach agreement. It is generally accepted that approximately 80 per cent of people who participate in FDR mediation reach a full agreement.

A typical agreement has 10 to 20 decisions. Below are some examples of the decisions that participants have included in their agreements. The names are fictitious.  The agreements are real. Here are many more child-focused decisions.

Agreements that you and your former partner reach about your children and/or your property can be agreements that finalise issues or agreements that set up guidelines for ongoing issues.

Practical outcomes: Agreements that finalise issues

This is an example of one FDR Mediation decision from a page of agreed decisions regarding children

  • Pat a‚Äčnd Lee agree that each child’s surname will remain as they are until each child reaches 18 years of age.

This is an example of one decision from a page of agreed decisions regarding property

  • Lee and Pat agree that they will share their property, assets and debts as described on the attached schedule 60:40 to Lee: Pat and that the values are the agreed values other than for shares which will be valued at 10AM local time on the day.


Practical outcomes: Agreements that set up guidelines for ongoing issues

This is an example of one FDR Mediation decision from a page of agreed decisions regarding children

  • Lee and Pat agree that for the remainder of the school year, Alicia and William will do their homework at Pat’s place on Mondays to Thursdays then go to Lee’s place for dinner, preparation for school and bed.

This is an example of one decision from a page of agreed decisions regarding property

  • Pat and Lee agree that at least for the remainder of the year, they will share the larger items for garden maintenance, including the ride-on mower, the fertilizer dispenser, the extending ladder and the high pressure hose pack. Pat and Lee further agree that during December they will meet at a coffee shop to discuss whether to continue sharing those items and that if either would prefer not to share them the other will agree, in which situation Pat will retain and assume full responsibility for, the mower and the high pressure hose and Lee will retain and assume full responsibility for the fertilizer dispenser and the extending ladder.

Practical outcomes: Agreement decisions regarding children

This document has approximately 60 examples of decisions from agreements made in FDR mediation in my practice. The decisions have been de-identified.

Personal outcomes

  • certainty
  • acknowledgement
  • closure
  • confidence
  • responsibility
  • motivation
  • satisfaction
  • acceptance
  • self-respect


Describing mediation to a group of Family Therapists I commented:
"Mediation participants tell me that the mediation process is as important as the outcome. The process provides the context for the outcome. What that means is that an outcome that appears fair and that is the result of an unfair process, is an unsatisfactory, often temporary outcome. An outcome that is fair and the result of a fair and even-handed process, is a durable outcome."

When explaining FDR Mediation to audiences, I often say
"FDR Mediation is unique among mediation settings. The hurt and the hope are of a particular intense sort that is less often seen in other mediations. One of the many strengths of FDR Mediation is the structure of the process. The structure is calming. It provides transparency, direction and momentum with scope for adjustments as needed."


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People who are considering FDR Mediation tell me that they find that there is a lot to learn. The FDR Mediation FAQs answer questions that I am most frequently asked about children and property. They start by explaining how FDR Mediation works and what it costs. Explanations include how it takes yours and your former partner’s concerns and each of your rights and responsibilities into consideration.

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Image Credit: Robert Woods