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Our services

Sunshine Coast Family Mediation Service offers mediation services for:

  • family dispute resolution;

  • children and parenting matters; and

  • property and financial matters.

The advantages of a mediated agreement may include:

  • The parties make a decision themselves and do not have a decision imposed on them by the Court;

  • The financial and emotional costs of legal proceedings are avoided or reduced;

  • Greater likelihood of maintaining your continuing relationship as parents;

  • Being able to move on with life quicker, as legal proceedings can take months or years to finalise;

  • Reduced resentment between the parties;

  • Improved communication between the parties and pathways for resolving disputes in the future.

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What is Family Dispute Resolution?

Family Dispute Resolution (FDR) is a special type of mediation for helping separating families to come to their own agreements. It is a voluntary and confidential process conducted by a mediator who is neutral and independent. In parenting matters, the ‘parties’ to a mediation are usually the separated parents of children, but can also include extended family members.

What is said during Family Dispute Resolution cannot be used as evidence in court. Some exceptions apply, including child abuse or anything that indicates a child is at risk of abuse must be reported, and this may be used as evidence in some circumstances.

The aim of Family Dispute Resolution is to assist separated parents to make agreements about parenting arrangements, which are documented in a Parenting Plan.

Family Dispute Resolution is compulsory if you make an application to the Court for a parenting order. You are required to provide a certificate (called a section 60I certificate) from an accredited Family Dispute Resolution Practitioner (FDRP). Exceptions to this requirement do apply, such as where the matter is urgent, or where there has been, or there is a risk of child abuse or family violence.

Family Dispute Resolution is not compulsory if you make an application to the Court for a property order.

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Section 60I certificates

If Family Dispute Resolution (FDR) is not successful a Section 60I certificate will be issued stating one of the following reasons:

  • one party refused or failed attend;

  • the matter was not appropriate for FDR;

  • both parties attended and made a genuine effort to resolve the dispute;

  • both parties attended but one or both parties did not make a genuine effort to resolve the dispute; or

  • it was not appropriate to continue the FDR process.

A court will not be able to hear an application for a parenting order unless a section 60I certificate from an accredited Family Dispute Resolution Practitioner approved by the Department of the Federal Attorney-General is filed with the application. There are some exceptions to these requirements, such as those involving family violence, fraud or urgency. In certain circumstances, the court may grant an exemption from the requirement to file a certificate.

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Children & Parenting Matters

The best interests of the child is the most important consideration when making parenting arrangements for separated families. The primary considerations of the Court in determining the best interests of the child are:

(a)  the benefit to the child of having a meaningful relationship with both of the child's parents; and

(b)  the need to protect the child from physical or psychological harm from being subjected to, or exposed to, abuse, neglect or family violence.

The mediation process can assist families to make agreements about children, including arrangements for:

  • where they will live and how much time they will
    spend with each parent; and any significant others (such as grandparents);

  • special occasions like birthdays, Christmas and Mother’s/Father’s day;

  • school holidays;

  • communication/ phone calls with the parent the child is not spending time with;

  • changeovers;

  • healthcare;

  • sharing information;

  • making changes to arrangements; and

  • resolving any future disagreements.

 

Where agreements are be reached, they can be documented using:

  • a Parenting Plan, which is flexible and not legally binding; or

  • Parenting Order, which is legally binding and enforceable.

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Parenting Plans

Parenting Plans can include agreements about:

  • parental responsibility;

  • where children will live;

  • who will be caring for them, and for what periods of time;

  • the communication a child is to have with another person;

  • maintenance of a child;

  • the process to be used for resolving disputes about the terms or operation of the plan;

  • the process to be used for changing the plan to take account of the changing needs or circumstances of the child or the parties to the plan;

  • any aspect of the care, welfare or development of the child or any other aspect of parental responsibility for a child.

Once these agreements are signed and dated by both parents, they become a Parenting Plan.

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Property Settlements and Financial Agreements

A Property Settlement is the process of dividing or re-allocating assets, liabilities and financial resources of a relationship.

Assets and liabilities are not necessarily divided equally. When the Court makes a determination, a party’s entitlement to a property settlement depends upon a number of factors, all of which can have varying importance from case to case:

  • The need for a property settlement, including

    consideration of the length of the relationship;

  • The value of the property pool;

  • The contributions made by each party, including

    financial, non-financial, parenting, and homemaking contributions:

    • at the commencement of the relationship;

    • during the relationship; and

    • post separation;

  • The future needs of both parties (depending on factors such as age, health, income earning capacity and financial dependents);]

  • What a just and equitable outcome may be in the particular circumstances of the case.

Once an agreement is reached regarding a property settlement, parties should consider how they want that agreement to be documented:

  • A property settlement agreement, such as may be signed at a mediation, is not legally binding.

  • In many cases a Consent Order, which is legally binding, may be appropriate.

  • In other circumstances, a Binding Financial Agreement, which is legally binding, may become necessary. A Binding Financial Agreement is a complex document drafted by solicitors and there are strict legal requirements, including that independent legal advice is required for each party.

  • Please note: Sunshine Coast Family Mediation Service does not draft Binding Financial Agreements during the mediation process.

Parties are encouraged to seek independent legal advice from a Family Law solicitor as to what type of agreement is best suited to their circumstances. Mediators cannot provide legal advice to parties during a mediation and must remain neutral.

Parties intending to apply for financial orders are encouraged to resolve disputed issues before filing an application with the Court. Often, parties will be ordered by the Court to attend family dispute resolution when an application is filed with the Court to commence legal proceedings.

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Spousal Maintenance

The law imposes a responsibility on a person to provide financial assistance to their spouse or former de facto partner if that person cannot adequately support themselves. Spousal maintenance is not the same as Child Support.

The Court considers:

  • can a person meet their own reasonable needs from their own income or assets?; and

  • does the other party have the capacity to pay?

Maintenance can be paid as a lump sum, ongoing regular payments for a certain period of time or in some circumstances, by way of transfer of an asset/s.

Parties are recommended to obtain prompt independent legal advice in relation to this issue, as time limits apply. A mediator cannot provide such advice to parties during a mediation.

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Child Support

Parents have a legal obligation to financially support their children.

Typically, child support is handled by the Child Support Agency rather than the Court.

At mediation parties are able to negotiate private child support agreements (both limited and binding child support agreements).

Parties are recommended to obtain independent legal advice in relation to this issue. A mediator cannot provide such advice to parties during a mediation.

Click here to view available mediation dates and to request an intake appointment