Listen generously
Think productively
Speak moderately
Decide wisely
Conclude satisfactorily

Illustration by Felicita Sala
Family Dispute Resolution (FDR) Mediation FAQs

If you are considering FDR Mediation, it is quite likely you are considering it for the first time. Here are the questions I am most often asked and my responses.

I welcome your email or phone call to discuss your specific questions and any concerns.


This page and our FDR Mediation page provide a comprehensive overview of FDR Mediation. You can find a more detailed explanation of mediation in general in the Mediation Handbook.


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


What is Family Dispute Resolution (FDR) Mediation?

FDR Mediation is evenhanded facilitation of a structured process of decision-making. It is particularly suitable for dispute resolution and for decision-making, especially when there is a range of points of view among the people concerned. The FDR Practitioner assists former partners to have a careful, focused conversation about the issues that you and your former partner agree to discuss. The aim is to reach agreement, if agreement is appropriate, for all who are affected, particularly each of you and, if you have them, your children and extended family members.


According to The Family Law Act

Family dispute resolution is a process (other than a judicial process):

(a) in which a family dispute resolution practitioner helps people affected, or likely to be affected, by separation or divorce to resolve some or all of their disputes with each other; and

(b) in which the practitioner is independent of all of the parties involved in the process.

Family Law Act 1975 –S10F


FDR Mediation is designed to create an environment for you and your former partner in which you can each put your best foot forward. FDR Mediation provides you with the opportunity to consider your perspectives in the context of other participants’ perspectives, and for others to consider their perspectives in the context of your perspectives. It is an opportunity for you and your former partner to shape your futures: first to discuss changing what you find difficult to accept and then to discuss accepting what you find difficult to change.

FDR Mediation relies on your patience and your commitment to listening generously. It also relies on you to trust that the process will to enable everyone to have their say, to be patient and to listen generously. It is my role to design and implement a fair process and to check in with you regularly and privately to hear how you are experiencing it.

This page and our FDR Mediation page provide a comprehensive overview of FDR Mediation. You can find more information about FDR at Family Relationships Online.

Back to top

How long does it take?

From start to finish, FDR Mediations generally take 3 to 6 weeks, depending upon your availability and the availability of all participants. On average, I hold two or three sessions. Each session is scheduled for up to 3 hours. FDR Mediation works well when you and your former partner are feeling relatively fresh and alert. I can arrange longer joint sessions over a shorter period of time if agreed by all involved.

I book 3 appointments at the start of your FDR Mediation so that you and your former partner can plan ahead. FDR Mediation, like  all forms of mediation, takes place at the pace  which suits you and your former partner and any other agreed participants. At each session you can be comfortable in the knowledge that, with the agreement of everybody, your FDR Mediation will finish during that session or if agreed, it will continue to another session.

Between sessions is your time for reflection, consideration and obtaining advice so that you can review the progress of your FDR Mediation and decide whether FDR Mediation remains suitable.

You and your former partner decide how long it takes. I find that people are often motivated to reach a conclusion as soon as possible so FDR Mediation tends to move relatively quickly. Sometimes it can assist if I slow the process down to make more space for listening and considering. I make my decisions regarding the pace of your FDR Mediation in consultation with you and your former partner.

FDR Mediation, once it is underway, is voluntary. I encourage you to remain at FDR Mediation only while it is working for you.

Back to top

What happens? Summary

I conduct FDR Mediation in three clearly defined stages. Following this summary there is a detailed description. In Stage 1, after a telephone call and/or email exchange with me, you and each other potential participant have an initial separate session with me. The goal of the initial separate sessions is to decide whether mediation is suitable in your current circumstances. If everyone agrees that the circumstances are suitable for mediation, Stage 2, which is a series of joint sessions, is commenced. The goal of joint sessions is to reach agreement, if agreement is appropriate. The goal of Stage 3 is to finalise any outstanding aspects of your mediation. This can include you completing the feedback requests and sometimes involves documentation to be completed by me.

Stage 1 Assessment for suitability of circumstances for FDR Mediation

Intake: I respond to your initial inquiries and address pressing questions, usually by phone or email.

Initial Separate Session: you and I meet to confirm circumstances are suitable for mediation and to explain the essence and elements of mediation.

Stage 2 Joint Sessions

First Joint Session

Mediator’s opening comments: I recap the essence and elements of mediation by clarifying the role of each person in the room
Participants’ opening comments: you and each other participant have an uninterrupted opportunity to explain why you are at mediation and what you would like to accomplish by mediating
Mediator’s summary: I summarise what I have heard you and each other participant say in your opening comments to provide an opportunity for everyone in the room to hear and consider what has been said
Agenda setting: I identify mutual, future focused topics from your opening comments to commence discussions
Clarification: I ask questions to provide the opportunity for you and each other participant to clarify, explore and gather information to broaden the context of each agenda item

First and subsequent Joint Sessions (including Private Sessions as required)

Option generation: I assist you to identify a wide range of possible components of an agreement on each of the agenda items
Option reality testing: I assist you to consider the more probable components of an agreement on each of the agenda items
Negotiation: I assist you each to adjust and fine-tune the most promising and practical of the options
Agreement: I record your agreements in your words on the whiteboard
Close: I summarise the mediation and next steps so that you can each leave with more certainty than when you came in

Stage 3 After mediation

Full agreement: you and each of the other participants cooperate to have your agreement recorded in a way that you regard as a commitment e.g. signed printouts from the white board; drawn up by your lawyers; other
Partial agreement: you and each of the other participants cooperate to have your agreements recorded in a way that you regard as a commitment and independently decide how to address remaining issues which can include a return to mediation.
No agreement: you and each of the other participants decide independently how to proceed posibly including, for example, accept the situation; return to mediation; conciliate; arbitrate; litigate.

Back to top

What happens? Detailed description

Stage 1: Initial separate sessions - assessment for suitability of circumstances for FDR Mediation

To make contact please send me an email or telephone me.  I will respond by telephone or email to answer your initial questions. I send you a Letter of Engagement together with the information required by the Family Law Act and the Regulations.

To begin you meet with me for a private initial separate session which usually takes one to two hours. I prefer to meet you in person, even if you would like to discuss progressing to online or phone mediation. You are welcome to be accompanied by one or more of your trusted advisors, that is, your personal and/or your professional support people, during this session.

This session is your opportunity to describe your circumstances and your point of view and to ask questions. I explain the FDR Mediation process and answer your questions. You and I then tentatively discuss whether FDR Mediation is likely to be suitable in the current circumstances, noting that I will make a decision regarding suitability only after I have met and conducted initial separate sessions with you and with each other potential participant. As soon as possible after meeting with each potential participant, I will advise you of my decision. In anticipation of FDR Mediation being suitable, you and I discuss steps you can take to prepare for FDR Mediation. I will also raise for discussion what your alternatives may be if one of the other potential participants decides against FDR Mediation or if, after meeting the other participants, the rare situation arises where I assess FDR Mediation as unsuitable for your circumstances.

Next I have the same private individual sessions with each of the other people involved. I listen to each person as if they are the first person I have met. Each person has the same opportunity to discuss their point of view, to ask questions about the FDR Mediation process; to decide whether FDR Mediation is suitable for and acceptable to them and to discuss steps they will take to prepare for FDR Mediation.

Then taking into account your comments, the comments of the other people involved and my own assessment, I make a recommendation to you and to each of the people involved about whether FDR Mediation is suitable at this time. If I assess FDR Mediation as suitable and if everyone agrees to go ahead, I make appointments for your joint sessions at times to suit the availability of each of the people involved. In the rare situation in which I assess mediation as unsuitable you and each of the other people involved can give consideration to your alternatives as discussed at your initial separate session.

Stage 2: Joint Sessions - to reach agreement if agreement is appropriate

Based on all initial separate sessions and maintaining strict confidentiality of information provided in each initial separate session, I develop a FDR Mediation approach to suit the particular circumstances. I design the process to ensure that you and the other person/people involved have the highest likelihood of reaching practical and long lasting agreements.

I generally book three, 3 hour joint session appointments. Sometimes two sessions are sufficient. Sometimes four sessions are necessary.

I can arrange longer joint sessions if necessary and if agreed by all involved. However, FDR Mediation sessions can be intense and are generally more productive for all when concentration and focus can be maintained throughout. Three hour sessions, with time for reflection between sessions, work well.

Where appropriate and agreed, the joint sessions can be conducted with each of you attending at different times. Some or all of the joint sessions can also be conducted online.

To begin your join sessions I facilitate solution-focused conversations in which you and each other person raise the issues that are important to you and listen to the issues that are important to each other person. I manage the conversations so that you and each other person involved have a fair opportunity to be heard and to explain your points of view. I facilitate movement of the conversations from speaking to listening and at the appropriate time, to considering options for solutions. Finally the conversations focus on whether the tentative agreements reached during discussions about options can be confirmed as satisfactory. If so, the agreements are noted. If not, I facilitate further discussion of possibilities to obtain more information or another approach to reaching agreement. In mediation all agreements reached during the mediation are tentative agreements until they are specifically confirmed by all as satisfactory.

Throughout each joint session I record your tentative agreements on the whiteboard. I regularly call a break for a private session so I can check in on how the session is going for you and ask about what it is that you think I may not be noticing. I do the same for each other participant. You can call other breaks whenever you would like to. A five-minute break often results in the following hour being significantly more productive than if a break had not been called.

At the end of each joint session I facilitate a brief review to note progress and to form an agreed action plan in preparation for your next session. Toward the end of the third session, if your FDR Mediation is not concluded, I review the progress with you and the other participants and facilitate a discussion to decide on next steps. Further sessions are scheduled if agreed by all.

Between joint sessions I keep in contact with you and the other people involved, usually by email and sometimes by telephone, as necessary.

To conclude your FDR Mediation I facilitate a review of the practicality of the agreements confirmed by all as satisfactory and to ensure that the steps for implementing and if necessary, formalising your agreements are clear. This requires that each agreement is

  • expressed clearly
  • practical for each of you individually as well as jointly
  • practical in the context of your other commitments
  • practical in day-to-day life

Following your FDR Mediation there are a number of ways that you can finalise your agreements. I discuss the alternatives with you during your initial separate session as well as periodically during joint sessions.

Stage 3: After Mediation - to finalise any remaining aspects

Following your FDR Mediation, there are sometimes some documents to be completed, depending on what you plan to do next.

Finally, I will provide a feedback form. I very much appreciate your comments. They form a significant part of my approach to continuous improvement.

Back to top

What does it cost?

First you and I speak on the phone for no charge. I charge an hourly fee for your initial separate session, joint sessions and related activities. Where costs are shared equally between two people, for example, my fees are likely to cost each person approximately $3000 (including GST) when there are two 3-hour joint sessions and approximately $4500 (including GST) when there are three 3-hour sessions.

Each FDR Mediation is unique. Your particular circumstances will affect my total fee. Costs will be higher if additional sessions are agreed and where I have a high level of contact with you and/or the other participants between your sessions.

FDR Mediation is a significant investment however it can be moderate in cost compared with the cost to you of continuing the conflict. It is also moderate in cost compared with legal negotiations, settlement conferences and going to court. Your participation and your FDR Mediation fees are very likely to buy you a durable agreement that is satisfactory to all and the possibility of respectful ongoing relationships. Continuing the conflict and/or legal negotiations rarely result in satisfactory, durable agreements and respectful relationships.


According to the National Standards for Resolving Disputes

“Disputes should be resolved in the simplest and most cost effective way. Steps to resolve disputes including using ADR processes, wherever appropriate, should be made as early as possible and both before and throughout any court or tribunal proceedings.”


If you wish to be accompanied to a session or sessions by your lawyer or other professional advisor, please consult them regarding their fees.

I appreciate that during the time of FDR Mediation other aspects of your life can be changing rapidly and sometimes unexpectedly. I prefer you to come to FDR Mediation when you are feeling prepared so there are no postponement or cancellation fees in my practice. That is, I charge only for sessions which are attended.

I provide full details of my fees and how they apply before you commit to FDR Mediation.

Back to top

Is it confidential?

Generally, FDR Mediation discussions and communications are confidential within the limits of the law. That is, what is written and said in, and related to, your FDR Mediation stays ‘in the room’. In addition, FDR Mediation discussions specifically cannot be used (are inadmissible) in a court or in an arbitration or in a tribunal or in any other legal action that is issued regarding the matters under discussion at FDR Mediation. Confidentiality continues after your FDR Mediation has concluded.

FDR Mediation is confidential to give you and the other people involved the opportunity to create and consider a wide range of possibilities for agreement without having concerns that what you suggest in FDR Mediation may disadvantage you in another dispute resolution setting. It means you can be confident that showing interest in a possible agreement and considering the implications of that possibility will be understood and interpreted by everyone present simply as showing interest. Confidentiality encourages the scope of FDR Mediation to be as broad and as flexible as you and the other participants collectively decide.

My confidentiality obligations regarding your FDR Mediation are described in the Family Law Act 1975 - Section 10H.  I maintain strict confidentiality regarding all of your communications, within the limit of the law. There are some circumstances in which I am legally or ethically obliged to report my concerns to the appropriate authority. For example if I have serious concerns about your well-being or the well-being of anybody in or connected to the FDR Mediation I may decide to report my concerns.

Maintaining the confidentiality of FDR Mediation generally extends to all your trusted advisors including personal support people, if any, and to any professional support people including your doctor, your lawyer, your psychologist and your accountant, all of whom also have professional obligations regarding confidentiality. That is, you can discuss any aspect of your FDR Mediation with your trusted advisors. Your trusted advisors will then be bound by their client-confidentiality obligations and by any relevant provisions of the Family Law Act 1975.

You and your former partner can agree to confidentiality arrangements that suit your circumstances. For example you could decide to nominate specific people with whom you will discuss the progress of your FDR Mediation to include in the ‘Circle of Confidentiality’. I think of these people as your off-site personal and professional trusted advisors.

In your first joint session I facilitate a short discussion so that you and each of the other participants can reach agreement, if you decide to, about who will be included in the ‘Circle of Confidentiality’ for your FDR Mediation.

The confidentiality guidelines of your FDR Mediation are a tailor-made blend of agreements among those attending, that include each person’s legal rights and obligations. Sometimes there are extra confidentiality requirements of an organisation which has subcontracted the FDR mediation. For example, Legal Aid and other agencies have policies and procedures relating to confidentiality.

‘Confidentiality’ has specific interpretations in law. The comments above in response to the question Is it confidential?’ are intended to contribute to raising your awareness of the relevant information. The better informed you are, the more precise your questions and the more wise your decisions. I encourage you to consider taking legal advice on any or all aspects of your FDR Mediation, including on ‘confidentiality’, ‘privilege’, ‘without prejudice’ and ‘admissibility’ that may be of concern to you.

Back to top

How are children included?

Children’s needs are a fundamental consideration of each step of your FDR Mediation. If you have children then from your initial phone call to the end of your final session, your children’s needs feature prominently. FDR Mediation can be child responsive and/or child focused and/or child inclusive. I discuss each of these approaches with you and your former partner in your initial separate sessions and throughout your FDR Mediation.

Three booklets which come highly recommended are

Property issues

When you and your former partner each have access to a lawyer, and when mediation is assessed as suitable, the Court encourages mediation or other form of out-of-court settlement before the Court considers providing a conciliation conference. The FDR Mediation that I provide satisfies this requirement.

Back to top

What is the role of lawyers in Family Dispte Resolution (FDR) Mediation?

If you have engaged a lawyer you will find that they have a distinct role in FDR Mediation.  Sometimes your lawyer will attend FDR Mediation sessions. If you or any of the participants decide to be accompanied by a lawyer (or another personal or professional support person) arrangements are made in advance. Well before each FDR Mediation session you and each other person involved will know who is attending each session of your FDR Mediation.

If they attend a FDR Mediation session, the role of a lawyer varies according to whether the FDR Mediation takes place mostly in the main room or mostly with you in one private room and each of the other people involved in their private rooms. During your FDR Mediation, it is the lawyer’s role to assist the FDR Mediation process and to follow your lead regarding the content. In private sessions and in breaks between joint sessions, it is the role of your lawyer to take your instructions and to provide advice that you request. In summary the role of your lawyer is to support you regarding any legal aspects of the FDR Mediation, while assisting the FDR Mediation process.

That is, your lawyer

  • supports you
  • takes your instructions
  • provides you with legal advice
  • engages with the process, the mediator and other participants
  • follows your lead and the lead of the other participants regarding issues for discussion
  • follows the lead of the Mediator with regard to the process
  • supports you and is supportive toward the other participants and cooperates with the process
  • reviews risks of mediating and of not mediating

To accomplish these roles


During your initial separate session and throughout the FDR Mediation, you and I (and your lawyer, if present) will discuss whether your lawyer will attend some or all of your FDR Mediation joint sessions.

If you engage a lawyer and they do not attend your FDR Mediation session I can assist you and the other participants to identify questions for each of your lawyers.

This enables you and the other participants to consider your legal advice both between FDR Mediation sessions and at your FDR Mediation.

You may like to read my posts in my Mediation Musings blog on the topic of the roles of lawyers in mediation in general. The titles of the posts are The role of lawyers in complementary dispute resolution and Mediation: the skilful lawyer.

Back to top

What is a S60I certificate?

A S60I certificate can be issued by a Family Dispute Resolution Practitioner to indicate to the Court

  • the opinion of the FDR  Practitioner regarding the suitability of circumstances of participants for FDR

and, providing the circumstances are assessed as suitable,

  • whether the participant or participants made a ‘genuine effort’ to resolve children’s issues in FDR.

The intent of S60I certificates is to encourage parents to cooperate to sort out their children’s issues, rather than taking the issues to Court for a determination. If you are a parent, you will be co-parenting at least until the youngest child is 18 years of age. S60I certificates are there to encourage you to start co-parenting cooperatively with the view that you will then be more likely to go on co-parenting cooperatively.

If you and your former partner attend FDR Mediation and make a ‘genuine effort’ to resolve issues regarding your children and are unable to reach agreement, I will issue you with a S60I certificate which enables you to take your matter to the Court.

What is a ‘genuine effort’? I assess ‘genuine effort’ by two criteria:

  • that you demonstrably and consistently listen to your former partner
  • that you demonstrably and consistently put the children’s needs ahead of your own
Back to top

What if I think I will be uncomfortable or unsafe at FDR Mediation?

I take your safety and your comfort very seriously.

Early in your initial separate session, which is a private, individual meeting, I ask you what will assist you to feel as comfortable as possible during FDR Mediation. I listen to your ideas and any concerns then you and I discuss the situation. I ask each participant the same questions so that you each know that I am using the same sort of information to decide on the suitability of FDR mediation and so that I am being even-handed. Your answers remain confidential at all times, within the limit of the law.

As a high priority I also ask you to tell me about any concerns you have for your safety or for the safety of anyone connected to the FDR Mediation. If you have any concerns I conduct a very focused discussion, including a review of whether FDR Mediation is suitable in your current circumstances. I work with you to develop a safety plan when necessary.

Most often I design FDR Mediation sessions so that you and the other participants attend joint sessions at the same time. Many of the benefits of FDR Mediation come from its careful, cooperative, inclusive approach. However, if it is more productive for you and each of the other participants to be in separate rooms or to attend FDR Mediation sessions at different times, I design your FDR Mediation to accommodate this. Online FDR Mediation is another approach I use when it is appropriate for your circumstances.

If there is a Restraining Order or an Undertaking, I will check that there is a clause on the document that provides for Family Dispute Resolution by a registered FDR Practitioner.

Back to top

How can we reach agreement when we seem so far apart?

People who engage me for FDR Mediation often comment at the start that they think they are irretrievably apart. Most people reach agreement. This is because FDR Mediation focuses on what is important to each person moving forward, rather than on particular outcomes that each person has wanted in the past. FDR Mediation provides an opportunity to create a tailor-made agreement, rather than to give way to one point of view. The FDR Mediation process provides guidelines for interacting cooperatively and getting future focused information on the table. FDR Mediation integrates the strengths of each person’s point of view.  Approaches other than FDR Mediation can be less successful when they involve wrestling with who has the authority and who has the entitlement, often resulting in a power struggle and a clash of rights and the risk of a winner and a loser.

It is natural that you and your former partner might see things more and more differently as a dispute progresses. For some people the longer conflict lasts, the more likely the terms of engagement are to become a power struggle and a clash of rights and the more it affects you and the other people, including children, involved. This can happen for many reasons including the difficulty of finding an opportunity for each person to present their point of view. It can happen because communication up to this point has been argumentative. It can also happen when one or more of the people involved is feeling emotional and when each person has different information, perhaps leading to different goals.

As well as considering the various points of view, FDR Mediation provides you with the opportunity to consider all the issues, including the legal issues, that it is agreed need to be resolved. A measured and respectful exploration of the issues as each person sees them can often contribute to new perspectives and sometimes to understanding.

Above all, FDR Mediation provides you with the opportunity to communicate cooperatively so that your communication adds value your decision making, rather than removing value from your decision making. FDR Mediation develops the notion that an agreement that is satisfactory for you and your former partner is more likely to be reached through a short period of mediated cooperation than through a long period of litigated argument.

FDR Mediation is the facilitation of a short, structured process of cooperation in the interests of establishing long-term, flexible cooperation.

Back to top

Where can I go for more information about Family Dispute Resolution (FDR)?

You can find more information about FDR at Family Relationships Online.

Your Guide to Dispute Resolution is a NADRAC booklet that provides a useful summary. Family Relationships Online provides answers to questions as well as brochures and publications.

I welcome your email or phone call to discuss your specific questions and any concerns.

Back to top

Image Credit: Robert Woods