Family Forum: Mediation a Good Way to Sort Out Issues

My ex-partner wants us to go to mediation to talk about our separation.


Can you please explain what mediation is and how it works? So far, we haven’t been able to agree on living arrangements for our two young children but we keep trying to avoid the high cost and hassle of going to court.


Mediation is an important method for helping people resolve differences particularly in the context of personal or commercial or legal disputes.

A professional mediator has received specific training and must be accredited through a recognised organisation. Many mediators hold prior qualifications in the social sciences such as psychology and social work, and have extensive experience in working with people who may be experiencing difficulties in their lives. Nowadays there are a number of mediators who have legal qualifications as well.

The mediator acts independently of each of the parties to a dispute and helps them identify and assess the options available to resolve their dispute. It is not the function of the mediator to work out all the answers, but to assist the parties to work out a solution or answer for themselves.

One specific form of mediation is known as Family Dispute Resolution, or FDR for short. As the name suggests it is useful for couples in dispute over the breakdown of their relationship or marriage. Disputes about the care of children and financial settlement may require such mediation.

In the Family Law Courts it is a requirement that parties undergo FDR mediation before commencing legal proceedings over children’s issues.

It would appear FDR is what has been suggested in your case. FDR will help identify the issues that need to be resolved and encourage you to listen to each other’s point of view, keeping the best interests of the children in mind.

The process will help you develop a parenting plan to set out arrangements for the children. The mediator will also check that you both understand what is being said and agreed upon.

To find a government-funded service, call the Family Relationship Advice Line on 1800 050 321 or use the “Find Local Help” search option online to look for a Family Relationship Centre, Family Dispute Resolution service or Regional Family Dispute Resolution service near you. The counselling agencies listed below including Relationships Australia SA, CentaCare Catholic Family Services and Uniting Communities are among the organisations that provide FDR in SA.

There are also many practitioners who work in the private sector. You can search the Family Dispute Resolution Register online at to find a private Family Dispute Resolution practitioner. Information about private provider’s costs can also be provided through the Register.

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