You have questions about mediation, we have the answers

Family dispute resolution is a process in which a family dispute resolution practitioner, independent of the parties, assists people to resolve some or all their disputes arising from separation or divorce. Parties who have a parenting dispute must make a genuine effort to resolve that dispute by family dispute resolution before filing a parenting application. The Court requires that people in dispute will attempt to resolve disputes if it is safe to do so. Family Dispute Resolution is, with limited exceptions, mandatory before any application can be filed.


These include:

  • When formalising an agreement through ‘consent orders’
  • where there is family violence or child abuse
  • when responding to an application to court
  • urgent issues
  • an inability to participate effectively (for example, due to incapacity or geographical location), or
  • a person has contravened and shown a serious disregard for a court order made in the last 12 months.

An FDR practitioner is an independent person trained in mediation and negotiation and specialises in family disputes. A family dispute resolution practitioner is neutral in the mediation and will facilitate the process by encouraging people to discuss and resolve the issues in dispute. A family dispute resolution practitioner understands the family law environment however cannot give legal advice or impose a decision. FDR’s facilitate a supportive environment, and focus on the safety of vulnerable people.

Family dispute resolution providers are registered with the Attorney General’s office and, if needed, issue a 60I certificate for you to take to court to confirm that an attempt at family dispute resolution was made.

Dispute resolution provides an opportunity to improve relationships with the other party and reach an agreement concerning legal and co-parenting issues that are important to you. The dispute resolution process empowers you to make your own decisions. As all parties are involved in reaching a resolution, it improves the likelihood that the agreement will continue in future and lessen conflict for you and your children. Dispute resolution is a more affordable, timely, and less stressful way of resolving disputes than a court process or trial.

In FDR, the issues in dispute that need to be resolved will be identified. Where there are children involved the FDR practitioner will focus on ideas and options to achieve workable solutions that are in the best interests of the children.
If it is not suitable to have both parties in the same location, we can arrange separate rooms and we may suggest bringing a support person. It is important to feel safe and secure during the process and we can discuss this further with you. During the mediation at times it may be necessary for the FDR practitioner to talk individually with each party to assist in progressing issues in dispute or to discuss options for negotiation.

Children do not attend mediation however child-inclusive practice gives children an opportunity to participate in the process. Child Consultants facilitate the inclusion of children and young people in the dispute resolution process by meeting with them to enable the meaningful and safe inclusion of their voice. Child Consultants will help you to focus on and support your children through family separation. Careful assessment is undertaken to determine whether Child Inclusive Mediation is a safe and appropriate option for the children involved.

Under the Family Law Act, discussions during dispute resolution are confidential and inadmissible in court, except in certain circumstances such as to prevent a threat to someone’s life or health or the commission of a crime. This enables you to negotiate knowing that communications during the mediation process cannot be used in court; however, an FDR practitioner must report any safety concerns involving children and this may be used as evidence in some circumstances.

When you engage with one of our FDR practitioners, the practitioner will usually invite the other person to a mediation session. You can also discuss with your lawyer or let the other party know you would like to start mediation. The practitioner will advise the other party that if they do not attend the mediation, they may need to issue a certificate so that the initiating party can make an application to a family law court. The FDR practitioner will assess if FDR is suitable for your family situation. This includes considering issues such as family violence, safety, equality of bargaining power, risks to children, the emotional and psychological health of participants and any other issues that may make FDR unsuitable.

As agreements reached in mediation are not binding, you and the other party can discuss with your lawyers how to best formalise them. Agreements involving children can be recorded as a parenting plan and signed by both parents. Parenting plans may include pathways to change arrangements and resolve disagreements and can be renegotiated over time if necessary.

Yes, as family dispute practitioners, a section 60 I certificate can be issued for several reasons, including if a party refuses to attend mediation or if the mediator considers mediation not appropriate. The issue of the section 60 I certificate is at the discretion of the mediator.

There is lots of flexibility when it comes to where we conduct mediations. We can conduct mediations in person, over the telephone and online via video conferencing, or we can hold mediations in other locations, including your lawyer's premises.

Sue Boursiani

Family Dispute Resolution Practitioner

Sue Boursiani is a Senior Psychologist, trained Child Consultant and accredited Family Dispute Resolution Practitioner with over 25 years’ experience working with children, young people and their families.  Drawing from extensive experience in trauma-informed practice, Sue offers highly tailored family mediation services, skilfully navigating challenging family transitions to resolve disputes for both parenting and financial matters.  Through her work as a Child Consultant, Sue adeptly integrates the voices of children, positively shaping post-separation parenting with empathy and insight.  With a wealth of experience in complex family dynamics and relationship breakdown, Sue is committed to empowering individuals going through  separation. She helps them achieve workable and sustainable resolutions in financial matters and co-parenting arrangements for their children,  effectively avoiding protracted conflict and court involvement.

Tim Smith

Family Dispute Resolution Practitioner

Tim is one of the co-founders of the Australian Family Mediation Group and has a diverse background in conflict management and mediation having worked in a variety of family-oriented intervention-based services. He has fine-tuned a strong, unique and effective style of family mediation where his primary goal is for family members in conflict to reach sustainable parenting and property agreements while avoiding where possible the mental anguish and high costs of Court-based litigation. Tim is a straight talker, with a compassionate and results-oriented approach. He also holds several post graduate degrees including a masters degree in mental health, and a second masters degree in conflict management and resolution. 

Katrina Thornley

Family Dispute Resolution Practitioner

Katrina is a qualified family dispute resolution practitioner and experienced psychologist. She has worked with numerous families going through separation and divorce. Her calm, confident approach, together with her experience and understanding of people, helps her to be an effective, solution focused mediator.