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Getting Free Legal Advice Pt 4: Family Dispute Resolution (FDR)

May 16, 2017

Getting Free If cash is tight and you want to try to resolve an issue about parenting or guardianship while staying out of Court, then Family Dispute Resolution (FDR) may be right for you. FDR is a mediation service. An impartial, trained mediator will guide you and the other party towards reaching agreement about issues to do with your children. If you are eligible, you can receive this service free.

Unless you have an urgent issue, attempting FDR will be necessary because you have to show you have completed FDR and Parenting through Separation before you can make an application to the Family Court for a parenting or guardianship order.

Whether you are eligible to receive free Family Dispute Resolution will depend on:

  • Your income. You can check here whether you are eligible. You will need to have an idea of what your income has been in the last three months; and
  • The number of dependents you have – this includes children who do not live with you but for whom you pay financial support such as child support;

If you think you are eligible for free FDR then you will need to arrange your FDR through an approved supplier. In Auckland, this will be FairWay or Family Works Northern. Elsewhere in the country, you can find a supplier here.

The supplier will check your eligibility for free FDR. It will ask for your driver’s licence and your last three months bank statements. You will also need to fill out a simple form. The good news is that if you have already been approved funding for the Family Legal Advice Service (FLAS) in the last 12 months, you are automatically  also covered for FDR and you do not need to reapply for funding. Likewise, any approval you are given for FDR funding will mean you can access FLAS within 12 months.

The supplier will also assess that your situation is suitable for FDR by asking you some questions. If it isn’t suitable, you will be given a certificate stating you are exempt from having to attend FDR. It will be important to obtain legal advice as to what steps you should next take. You might be able to do this under the Family Legal Advice Service.

Once your eligibility for funding has been approved and your situation has been assessed as suitable for FDR, the supplier will connect you with a mediator. The mediator will want to meet with each of you individually at first. At that meeting, the mediator will learn more about your situation, further assess your situation for suitability for mediation and discuss the process more with you. If there is agreement to do so, the mediator will then meet with both of you together to try to help you resolve your parenting issue.

Your time with the mediator will be limited therefore using that time to focus on the children and the future, rather than going over past grievances in your relationship with the other person, will be important. In order to get the most out of FDR, you may be recommended to attend preparatory counselling or conflict coaching. Again, if you have been approved funding for FDR, this will be free. Preparatory counselling or coaching is a great opportunity to speak with someone about what is concerning you and to receive coaching as to constructive communication about those concerns and issues.

Most mediators also urge parties to receive legal advice about their situation either before attending mediation or about any agreement reached at FDR. Having legal advice enables you to make informed decisions at mediation. If you are eligible for funded FDR, you should also be eligible to receive free legal advice under the Family Legal Advice Service. If you reach agreement at FDR or mediation, your mediator will write up your agreement. You can ask to have an opportunity to discuss the agreement with your lawyer before you sign it. You may also want to canvass with your lawyer whether you should seek Court orders that reflect aspects of your agreement.

The good news is that FDR is not just available to those who are eligible for funding. Even if you are not eligible for fully funded FDR, you will likely be eligible for partially funded FDR. In Auckland, the Family Dispute Resolution Centre offers partially funded FDR at a cost of $897.00 (at the time I wrote this).

FDR is for a limited amount of FDR services and time with your mediator. Some of our clients with parenting issues have indicated they want a higher level of service provided to them and more time made available to them by the mediator than funded or partially funded FDR provides. For those clients, we have been engaged privately to mediate their dispute successfully. Likewise, clients who recognise the benefits of mediation for their property issues often opt to engage us or another mediator privately to mediate.

FDR must be provided by approved Family Dispute Resolution Providers who are trained in family mediation. At Family Law Results, we are approved to provide FDR and mediation services so give us a call on (09) 297 2010. We are happy to provide FDR or mediation services or legal advice and coaching as you prepare for and work through mediation.

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