Dispute resolution is a fundamental aspect of all family law proceedings as the Court aims to encourage families to resolve their disputes through non-legal avenues. These dispute-resolution services are generally facilitated by a neutral person who facilitates communication and compromise.

Dispute resolution is a broad umbrella term encompassing multiple informal and formal practices. These practices include: Firstly, negotiation; Secondly, mediation; Thirdly, arbitration; Fourthly, conciliation; Fifthly, family dispute resolution and Finally, collaborative law.

There are of course exemptions to dispute resolution (which our Family Law team is happy to further discuss with you)


Negotiation is a way for parties to communicate their concerns and attempt to reach a mutual agreement. It can occur informally through the parties communicating together but also through legal representatives. Negotiation is generally the first step in Family Law proceedings as it can narrow the issues in dispute and focus upon issues that the parties cannot resolve.


Mediation is a process, facilitated by a neutral, third-party mediator in which parties attempt to resolve their dispute. There are multiple types of mediation which can be used but predominantly mediators may attempt to resolve your dispute using some form of facilitative family mediation. This form of mediation focuses on the interests of the parties with the overarching goal of resolution.


Arbitration is a formal process in which parties provide their arguments and evidence to a third-party Family Arbitrator who will then decide and resolve the dispute. Participation in arbitration is voluntary and can be undertaken through consent by the parties or a court referral. Arbitration is generally quicker than Courts with decisions being issued within 28 days however, once a decision is made by the Arbitrator it is registered with the Court and has the effect of a Court Order.


Conciliation is a formal process in which parties can work with a Judicial Registrar to make a genuine attempt to resolve their dispute. During a Conciliation Conference, the Registrar will look at both sides, listen to both sides and assist parties in to provide options to settle the matter. Its main purpose is to facilitate communication and compromise between the parties and allow them to have control over the outcome of the dispute.

Family Dispute Resolution (FDR)

FDR is a process in which a neutral third-party practitioner assists parties to resolve their disputes and can be attended with the assistance of legal representatives or without. It is a necessary process for parties involved in a parenting dispute as they must make a genuine effort to resolve their dispute before filing any legal proceedings.

Collaborative Law

Collaborative law is a process in which both parties and their lawyers enter into a contract, called a Participation Agreement to constructively negotiate and settle a dispute without the requirement of litigation. This Agreement requires the lawyers to withdraw from the matter if an application is made to a Court. This process promotes all efforts to solve the dispute without the commencement of litigation.

New South Lawyers’ communications are intended to provide commentary and general information. To that end, people should not rely on this communication as legal advice. Accordingly, they should seek formal legal advice for matters of interest arising from this communication.

To find out more, chat with a member of New South Lawyers' Family Law Team today.