Family dispute resolution
Changes to the Family Law Act 1975, introduced in July 2006, emphasise the need to use community-based family relationship services. For more information visit the family relationships website listed under the website links.
Under the changes, services within the community are provided by accredited practitioners, such as family dispute resolution practitioners and family counsellors.
Unless authorised by the Family Law Act, family dispute resolution practitioners and family counsellors must not disclose communications made in family counselling or family dispute resolution. See Sections 10B-10K of the Family Law Act for detail about accredited community-based practitioners.
Within the courts staff employed as family consultants work on cases involving children. They provide a continuing service as the case moves through the court process.
Family consultants are family and child specialists who assist the Courts to resolve disputes. Communications with a family consultant are admissible as evidence, meaning the information may be made available to the court at a later date. There are exceptions to this: information about settlement negotiations privileged. This means that the judicial officer cannot be told what you discussed in the negotiations, except in limited circumstances. Sections 11A-11E of the Family Law Act contain the law about the role of court-employed family consultants.
Can I ever speak confidentially with the family consultant?
No, but a judicial officer or registrar may order that you attend an appointment with a family counsellor or family dispute resolution practitioner. Communications with a family counsellor or family dispute resolution practitioner are confidential and are not admissible in court. In this situation, you may have both a family counsellor or family dispute resolution practitioner and a family consultant carrying out their role. This will not be the same person.
The Family Law Act also says that a court can refer people to community-based family counselling, family dispute resolution and other family services, see Section 13C.
There are a number of organisations which offer similar services. You will need to check which one meets your needs.
To find out more about the service options, call the Family Relationship Advice Line on 1800 050 321 or visit the Family Relationships Online website located under website links.