There is a lot more to a separation than going your separate ways, especially when there are children in the mix. A life spent as part of a couple, is a life tightly entwined … emotionally, practically and financially.

When you separate you must forge a path through each area whereby both parties are satisfied and, most importantly, your kids are cared for in the best possible way.It is definitely not easy!

For many ex-couples it can feel impossible to find common ground where they can agree on even the most basics of decisions.

If this is the case for you, then mediation could be the way forward.

In this article we discuss:

  • What is family mediation
  • The benefits of trying mediation
  • A basic guide as to how it works


A family mediator is a person who will assist you and your partner to make decisions and find resolutions in relation to your separation.

Mediation can be provided by a professional, or it can be a friend or family member that you and your ex-partner agree on who is able to referee and add value to your dispute dialogue.

Specialist financial separation accountants also act as mediators if you and your ex-partner are struggling to reach an agreement with your property settlement. They will work with both parties collaboratively to find a peaceful and cost-effective resolution, and have your orders approved by the Family Court, without using lawyers.

For formal family mediation around the care of your children you will need an accredited Family Dispute Resolution practitioner (FDR). This is an independent professional who is trained to mediate family conflict, especially that which rises from separation.

A Family Dispute Resolution practitioner or mediator is neutral. They will not make decisions on you or your exes behalf and will not “take sides” when facilitating a discussion. Instead, they will guide the conversation to ensure it stays on track while important issues are kept forefront.

An FDR practitioner is accredited under the standards set out in the Family Law (Family Dispute Resolution Practitioners) Regulations 2008.

Outcomes reached as part of mediation, can be used to create your parenting plans and/or consent orders.

Further reading: 8 Good reasons why you should have a parenting plan.


  • Having a neutral third-party involved in your discussions can keep you focused, ultimately resolving problems faster and more effectively
  • A mediator will encourage both parties to converse responsibility and respectfully so outcomes can be reached without further damage to the relationship
  • Having an opportunity to share personal viewpoints in an impartial space means both parties will feel heard and validated
  • Important decisions can be made in advance during mediation which will pave the way for a successful co-parenting relationship in the future
  • A mediator will ensure the well-being of your children is the main focus of any decision-making
  • Most significantly, successful mediation which facilitates good decision-making will prevent the need for your matter to go to a family court where important decisions about your family will be taken out of your hands. Going to court is a slow, stressful and costly process that you should try to avoid.


Informal mediation with an impartial friend or family member can be as simple as the three of you sitting at the kitchen table for a conversation. All parties might like to take notes or even record the discussion. Recording can make both parties accountable for the way they converse and behave. Good communication will get good results.

For formal mediation, or mediation ordered by the family court, you will need to book one or more sessions with a Family Dispute Resolution practitioner. There is the option of government-funded or private services. As a starting point, head to the Family Dispute Resolution Register.

Depending on your specific circumstances around safety and location, you will have the option for sessions which are:

  • Face-to-face
  • In a separate room to your ex-partner
  • Online video call

Sessions with a professional mediator or FDR practitioner are confidential and they cannot be used as evidence in court. This will allow both parties to speak freely. The only exception is if a matter arises around child abuse, a life threat or a criminal issue.

The hope is that your mediation will be successful enabling all members of your family to move forward into their new normal. However, if it is unsuccessful an accredited Family Dispute Resolution practitioner can issue a Section 60I certificate which permits an application to be made to the family court.

Further reading: How to choose a lawyer for your family law case.

Belinda Eldridge
Posted by Belinda Eldridge
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