Mediation to work out parenting disagreements

Family Dispute Resolution is a mediation service that gives you extra help to come to an agreement with your ex-partner or anyone else involved in the care of your children.

An impartial (neutral) mediator runs the session/s, helps you identify the issues and makes sure you each get time to say your point of view. The mediator will help you focus on what’s best for your children, but won’t force you to agree to anything. They also won’t make a decision for you.

If you’re separating or divorcing, you can also talk about relationship property during Family Dispute Resolution, but only if this helps you agree about the care of your children.

You can take a support person if everyone taking part in the mediation agrees. You should ask the mediator about it before the session.

Find a mediator near you

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Watch a video about mediation 

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When you should take part in mediation

Family Dispute Resolution is an effective way of resolving a parenting dispute. It’s cheaper, less stressful and quicker than going to court. It also means you and your ex-partner still make the decisions about your children. 

Most people need to attend the Parenting Through Separation course and try Family Dispute Resolution before they can ask the Family Court to settle their parenting dispute.

Sometimes taking part in mediation might not be right for you. For example, you might need to apply for an urgent Parenting Order because:

  • you're experiencing family violence
  • your child is at risk
  • your ex-partner is planning to take your child overseas without your permission.

In these cases, you don't need to take part in Family Dispute Resolution. 

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What to expect at mediation

Your mediator will first meet or talk with each of you separately to assess whether:

  • your dispute is suitable for Family Dispute Resolution
  • taking part in a preparation session beforehand might help you.

The mediator will then arrange your session/s. 

The mediator will try to help you make decisions that are in the best interests of your children. They will focus on:

  • how each of you will look after the children
  • when you’ll see the children during the times you’re not looking after them
  • working out things like how you’ll pick up and drop off the children, where they will spend the holidays and how you’ll handle birthdays and other celebrations
  • developing your skills to resolve other parenting disputes in the future.   

The mediator will make sure everyone has time to have their say. They won’t try to get you and your ex-partner back together. They won't make judgements about who’s right or wrong, or make decisions for you.

Preparing for mediation

You may feel too angry or stressed about your relationship to think clearly about your children’s needs. The mediator may offer you sessions to prepare for mediation to help you manage those feelings. This can help you focus on the best outcome for your children when you attend mediation.

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Cost of mediation

You may be able to get government funding to cover the cost of Family Dispute Resolution, including preparation for mediation.

You may also qualify for free legal advice from the Family Legal Advice Service.

Use our funding table to find out if you qualify for free mediation and the Family Legal Advice Service

Paying for mediation

If you don’t qualify for government funding, you can still use a funded mediator. If you do, you'll pay no more than $448.50 for your share of the cost.

Private or non-funded mediators set their own prices.

Read about Family Dispute Resolution in Māori, Samoan & simplified Chinese

Family Dispute Resolution – Māori [PDF, 758 KB]

Family Dispute Resolution – Samoan [PDF, 726 KB]

Family Dispute Resolution – simplified Chinese [PDF, 870 KB]