Family violence and Family Dispute Resolution: what is it and do I need it?

Divorce and separation can be a difficult time, especially if children are involved.

If you and your former partner have different ideas about child custody arrangements or other matters, you will normally need to attend Family Dispute Resolution (FDR) to help resolve these. However, this is not required if you or your children have experienced family violence.

What is family violence?


Family or domestic violence does not only relate to physical and sexual abuse in relationships, as many people assume. It also covers emotional abuse such as:

  • neglect or intimidation
  • verbal abuse
  • financial abuse (such as withholding money)
  • social abuse (such as stopping someone from seeing their friends or family)
  • spiritual abuse (if someone is prevented from practising their religion).

You may be in a domestic violence relationship if your partner is trying to control you or is causing you or other people in your home to experience fear or anxiety. If you think you are in a DV relationship, you should consider:

  • reaching out for support to people you trust
  • contacting support organisations
  • speaking to family lawyers to find out your rights and your options
  • calling the police on 000 if you or your children may be in immediate danger.

What is Family Dispute Resolution?


Also known as mediation, Family Dispute Resolution (FDR) is a way for separating couples to discuss and agree on parenting arrangements such as where children will live and agreements over child contact. This takes place in a safe environment with the help of an impartial third party.

FDR can be helpful for allowing parents to come to an agreement without having to take the matter to court. It gives both parties the chance to communicate their point of view and to express their concerns, and usually leads to an outcome that both parties agree on. However, it is not suitable in all cases.

Do I need to attend Family Dispute Resolution?


In most cases, Family Dispute Resolution is a required step before going to court. Separating couples need to present their certificate from a Family Relationships Centre to show that they have attended mediation and have tried to resolve matters related to children and divorce themselves.

You are not required to attend FDR if:

  • you are in a violent or abusive relationship
  • your children are at risk of or have experienced abuse
  • the situation is urgent
  • you are applying to the court for consent orders
  • one party is unable to attend FDR due to illness or a remote location.

Family Dispute Resolution only works if both people involved feel safe and are willing to come to an arrangement. If FDR is not appropriate, you can talk to family support services to find out about alternatives such as arbitration or ask family lawyers to represent you in court.

Where can I get help?


If you need advice or support about family violence, divorce or child care and protection in New South Wales, the following services could be useful:

Domestic Violence Line
1800 65 64 63
1800 737 732


Family & Community Services


Relationships Australia NSW


Legal Aid NSW


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