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<xTITLE>4 Ways Custody Mediation in Australia is Unique</xTITLE>

4 Ways Custody Mediation in Australia is Unique

by Ben Coltrin
March 2022 Ben Coltrin

If you have a custody disagreement in Australia, you should be aware of four distinctions in how the country handles mediation because you are highly likely to find yourself in front of a mediator. 

More than 95 percent of Australian parents at odds over their child manage to avoid court, and many of these have mediation to thank for their consensus.

  1. It’s called FDR

In Australia, child-focused mediation is called family dispute resolution (FDR). In this form of mediation, the mediator is called a family dispute resolution practitioner (FDRP). FDRPs must be accredited.

On a similar note, child custody is referred to simply as parenting in the legal system.  

  1. It’s required before going to court

Australian family courts require you to try an alternative dispute resolution process before they decide parenting issues for you (unless you’re excused due to domestic violence or urgency). Most families choose FDR as their alternative.

When you apply for a parenting order, you turn in paperwork confirming your attempt or that negotiating with the other parent would not be appropriate. The so-called 60I certificate must be signed by an FDRP.

Though the certificate will not include details of your negotiations, it will note if a parent refused to participate genuinely. 

If you do not file a 60I certificate with your order application, the courts will send you to FDR with one of their staff practitioners.  

  1. It often doesn’t result in a court order

If you reach an agreement via FDR, it's written into a parenting plan, which includes a parenting schedule. This document reminds you of what you agreed on and can also demonstrate your thinking to a court if a dispute arises later. 

Should you choose to turn the plan into a consent order — an enforceable court order reached by agreement — you apply together. Many parents opt not to do this because they feel confident that both sides will comply with the parenting plan.

  1. It’s free

FDR provided by a court is free. Family Relationship Centres also offer one free hour of FDR to all parents in Australia. Families making less than $50,000 a year can get a second and third hour free, while other families pay $30 an hour at that point.

Private practitioners generally cost between $1,000 and $5,000 in total, usually split equally by parents.

If you are facing financial hardship, legal aid can cover the costs of family dispute resolution. Some legal aid organizations offer a form of FDR called family law conferencing, in which both parents' lawyers must participate.


Ben Coltrin was 21 years old when he quit his job to create the Custody X Change software, which helps parents track their custody schedules, create parenting plans, keep tabs on their child's expenses, and more.

Nearly 20 years later, he loves sharing his child custody knowledge and improving the software because both positively impact real people's lives.

Ben has an MBA from MIT Sloan and a computer science degree from California State University, Sacramento. He lives with his wife and four children in Riverton, Utah.

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Additional articles by Ben Coltrin