Frequently asked questions about Family Dispute Resolution

There’s a lot to think about when coming to Fair Way’s Family Dispute Resolution service. Here are some of the most common questions we get asked.

  • Do I have to attend in person?

    While in-person mediation is certainly the preference for many, videoconferencing technology has opened up mediation for people who live far apart, can’t travel, or can’t meet up face to face.

    At Fair Way, we have online, easy-to-access videoconference options available for people who can’t attend in person.

  • Do I have to attend mediation with my ex-partner?

    Mediation requires both parties to attend, which we understand may not be comfortable. The FDR mediator works with you to design a mediation process that helps you manage coming to mediation with your ex-partner.

    Remember, if you have concerns for your safety or the safety of your children, please dial 111 or speak with a lawyer immediately.

  • Do I need a lawyer?

    Mediation isn’t intended to include lawyers. You can have your lawyer attend mediation with the agreement of the others involved, including the mediator, but they can’t represent you during the mediation sessions. You generally pay for the lawyer yourself, but if you qualify for government funding, you can likely get some free legal advice from the Family Legal Advice Service. Visit the Ministry of Justice website or call 0800 2 Agree (0800 224 733).

  • Can you check the parenting agreement with your lawyer before signing it?

    Of course. You may get legal advice at any step during the mediation process. However, you must meet this cost yourself, or find a Family Legal Advice provider by going to the Ministry of Justice website or calling 0800 2 Agree (0800 224 7332).

  • How do I prove to the court that I’ve been to mediation?

    When your mediation is completed, we give you a copy of the FDR outcome form showing you have attended mediation. It’s important to keep this in a safe place as you must attach it to your application forms if you proceed to the Family Court.

    This form is valid for 12 months. If you do misplace it, or can’t provide it for any reason, the local Family Court staff can check your mediation attendance when you file your forms.

  • How will my special cultural/disability/language needs be accommodated?

    During your first conversations with Fair Way, the Resolution Coordinator assesses you to make sure FDR is suitable for your situation and will ask questions to see if you have any special requirements. We do our best to make the mediation process as easy as possible for everyone to participate.

  • Can I change my mediator?

    If you have concerns about your mediator’s impartiality or independence, talk to us. If you change for any other reason, any mediation hours already taken won’t be refunded.

  • What if I’m a no show?

    If you don’t show up for a session, or cancel with less than 24 hours’ notice, one hour will be deducted from your 12-hour mediation time.

  • What happens if one of us refuses to go to mediation?

    Most family disputes must first go through FDR before going onto the Family Court. If you have concerns about FDR, please talk to us or get advice from a lawyer, perhaps through the Family Legal Advice Service. Sometimes disputes can proceed to the Family Court without going through mediation (see below), and your mediator can talk to you about that. However, if a Family Court judge considers your dispute was suitable for mediation, they may direct you back to mediation. Then, you must complete FDR before your proceedings can move forward.

  • What are the consequences if the other party doesn’t go to FDR?

    We strongly encourage both parties to attend mediation, but if one party refuses to attend, then the person requesting FDR will be granted an exemption to go to the Family Court to resolve the dispute. It’s possible the judge might refer you and the other party back to mediation after they have heard from you both.

  • What happens if you can’t agree?

    The vast majority of people who use Fair Way’s FDR service do come to an agreement during mediation. If you can’t resolve any or all your issues, your mediator will lay out the next steps available.

    The FDR mediator will give you a copy of an FDR form saying you have attended mediation. It will also say whether you have agreed on any of the issues, or if you couldn’t agree. You may then make an application to the Family Court, attaching that form when you file your court papers.

  • What happens if you reach agreement at mediation and one of you changes your mind afterwards? Is your agreement legally enforceable?

    The Fair Way FDR mediator will work with you and the other party to ensure that any agreement you reach is likely to work. You can keep this agreement private (between parties), or you can apply to the Court to have your agreement turned into a Court Order. For this to happen, the Family Court judge must be satisfied that the agreement is in your children’s best interests. Once the agreement becomes a Court Order it is legally enforceable.

    If you’re eligible for government funding, you can use the Family Legal Advice service before going to court. Find a Family Legal Advice provider on the Ministry of Justice website or call 0800 2 Agree (0800 224 733).

    Sometimes people do change their mind after mediation. Ideally mediation has given you communication skills you can use to discuss and resolve any further issues. If that’s not possible, you can come back to mediation, but there’s a three-month stand-down period from the time you completed your initial mediation. This is to allow time to see how well your agreement is working day to day, and to settle into the new arrangements.

    After those three months, if there are issues you can’t resolve, you can come back to mediation. If you remain eligible for government-funded mediation, you won't have to pay anything further. 

  • Will the FDR mediator sort out our relationship property?

    The FDR service is primarily for resolving parenting arrangements for your children. However, you may discuss relationship property at the mediation if your mediator agrees, as the resolution of a property matter might support your childcare decisions.

    However, any agreements made in mediation about relationship property are not legally enforceable. You must go to the Family Court and apply for a Consent Order if you want your agreement made into an enforceable Court Order.

    Fair Way offers a separate relationship property mediation service to help former couples divide property in an efficient and cost-effective way. Find out more in our Relationship property disputes section, or contact us at rps@fairwayresolution.com.

  • Where can I get support?

    If you are just starting out with mediation, ask your mediator or Resolution Coordinator to refer you for ‘preparation for mediation’ coaching to help you prepare for mediation. This service is part of the 12 hours of FDR services available and is designed to make your mediation go more smoothly.

    Other supports available include Strengthening Families, Shine, Birthright, Skylight and Barnardos. We strongly encourage you to talk to someone if you want support. Your FDR Resolution Coordinator can give you information about support services available near you.

  • Can you recommend any useful links?

What happens complaint

Read some case studies

We have prepared a series of case studies taken from real-life disputes we have worked on. You may find them useful to your own situation.