FDR Mediation during COVID-19: FAQs

We have been receiving many inquiries from parents concerned about how the COVID-19 lockdown will affect their ability to access FDR mediation or how they should be approaching co-parenting at this time.

We have compiled a list of the questions we are being asked most often – if your area of concern is not addressed below, please call one of our case managers on 0508 337 236 or use our online chat.

Question: Answer:
Are you open and are you operating as per normal?

Yes, we are open and yes, we are operating as normal within our normal business hours: Monday to Friday from 8.30 am to 5.00 pm and can be contacted by phone and email.

Our case managers and mediators are working remotely, and we are still able to offer our full range of dispute resolution services. 

Can mediation go ahead?

 

Yes. Mediations that are already scheduled can go ahead. They will probably be in a different format to what was arranged, so please contact your mediator to discuss. 

We are also accepting new FDR mediation applications. There will be no delay to processing these and mediations will be held remotely.

How are mediations being conducted during this time?

There are several ways that mediations can be conducted remotely. These are:

1.       Video conferencing (on smart phone or computer)

2.       Tele conferencing

3.       Email exchanges

Will there be a delay to the mediation process? We do not envisage any delays to the mediation process due to COVID-19. In some cases, mediation may be able to happen more quickly as people may be more available during this time.
Can I get mediation to happen within the next 4 weeks? Yes, if we are able to contact all parties and establish funding, then mediation will be able to happen in the next 4 weeks.

What happens if I don’t want to go ahead?

 

As per the FDR mediation guidelines, if you choose not to participate, then the other party will be issued an s12 exemption certificate. They can use this to present to the Family Court to show that FDR mediation has been attempted if they choose to commence court proceedings.
Can I wait until lockdown is over? Our mediators will be conducting assessments as usual. If your dispute is found to be suitable to proceed to mediation and both parties agree to wait until lockdown is over then we will ‘pause’ the process. It is important to remember however that we cannot be certain when we will return to some normality. Family Courts are still operating for urgent matters and if either party wishes to proceed, then we cannot pause the process indefinitely.

I’ve lost my job and can’t pay, what now?

 

If your income has changed recently, or you have been notified that it will be changing, please select ‘My income has changed in the past 3 months, and is below the funding income threshold’ on the funding declaration and provide proof from your employer.
The other party is in a different country and isolated, so is there much point in proceeding with mediation now? If you still have issues that need to be resolved, then there is every reason to proceed. In fact, it is likely that you will have more things to discuss as you navigate how to co-parent during isolation.
How can I submit my Funding Declaration Form if I don’t have a printer? Please contact us and we can send you a new form to be signed electronically that you can send back to us online.
How can I submit my Voice of the Child agreement if I don’t have a printer? Please contact us and we can send you a new agreement to be signed electronically that you can send back to us online
What if there is another person in the room with the other party while we are mediating? Will they be considered a support person? Yes. Any other person present will be considered a support person. They will be required to sign a confidentiality agreement and will not be able to speak in the mediation.
How do we sign a parenting agreement if the mediation is done via video conference? The mediator will determine how to agree to the final terms and conditions of the agreement. Email confirmation can be used.
What should shared care look like under alert level 3?

The Ministry of Justice has released updated guidelines for shared care under level 3. The key differences are: 

  • At Alert Level 3, children may move between households (bubbles) under a parenting arrangement. At Alert Level 3, household bubbles can be extended from Alert Level 4 (for example, to reconnect with close family who live nearby) but must remain exclusive.
  • Children are no longer limited to moving between two bubbles as part of a parenting arrangement, but it is still important that the number of bubbles between which children are moved is only as large as is necessary and in line with your parenting arrangement.
  • There is no restriction on the distance of travel, children can move between different regions. However, only travel where you need to and follow the general rule of keeping travel to a minimum. You should take a copy of your court order or parenting arrangement with you, to help explain your travel.
  • Private vehicles should be used, where possible, but public transport can be used where there are no alternatives. For caregivers who have a court order, children may travel by domestic air or inter-island ferry.

For more details please see the Ministry of Justice ‘Guidance for managing shared parenting during COVID-19 alert levels’ page here