On this page you can find answers to some of our frequently asked questions.
What is FDR Mediation?
‘FDR’ is a service designed to help separated couples and families reach agreement about the care of their children through a process called ‘mediation’.
FDR mediation gives you the opportunity to work on a Parenting Plan for the care of your children, with the assistance of a mediator, in a private environment outside of the Family Court. Avoiding Court can save you time and money, and is much less stressful. Most importantly, as parents or guardians, you get to make important decisions about your children’s welfare, rather than a judge who does not know you or your children.
Who is eligible for FDR Mediation?
The FDR Mediation process is available to anyone who is a New Zealand citizen, whether or not they currently live in New Zealand. For those who are not New Zealand citizens, FDR Mediation is still available as long as the children live in New Zealand.
Anyone who is eligible and is involved in a dispute relating to the care of children under the age of 18 (including guardianship) is entitled to apply to use FDR Mediation. Generally, this is parents who are separating, but sometimes it may involve extended family/whānau. The disputes are usually about day-to-day care/contact or guardianship matters arising under the Care of Children Act 2004 (CoCA).
Do I have to use FDR Mediation or can I still go directly through the Family Court?
FDR mediation is now mandatory for most parties prior to commencing Care of Children Act (CoCA) proceedings. In cases where FDR mediation is inappropriate (eg where there are safety risks), parties can go directly to Family Court.
What types of matters go to FDR Mediation?
The FDR mediation process deals with situations where parents or guardians cannot come to an agreement on parenting or guardianship of their children. Common areas of dispute can include:
- day-to-day care arrangements;
- choosing a school and extra-curricular activities;
- school holiday care;
- healthcare; and
- celebrations: birthdays, Christmas etc.
How long will the FDR Mediation process take through the FDR Centre?
We aim to have your FDR mediation completed in three weeks from application, providing both parties are available.
Can I get access to full funding for FDR Mediation?
Government funding for FDR mediation is available for people on low incomes. Eligibility is based on the applicant’s number of dependents and income over the past year (before tax and any deductions such as student loan repayments, KiwiSaver contributions or ACC levies). If the applicant’s income has changed in recent months, they can use their income over the past three months. An applicant who has qualified in the past year for family or civil legal aid is also eligible.
For more information, see FDR Mediation Fees.
How can I make a payment?
Our bank account details for payment by direct debit are below (please include your FDR number and your name as the payment reference):
Account number: 03 1322 0837828 02
Banking institution: Westpac
Reference: FDR File Number and Name
Payments may also be made online by credit card (credit card payment will incur a 2.95% merchant fee).
What happens if the other party is not entitled to full funding and refuses to pay the $448.50 fee?
If the other party refuses to contribute to the cost of the FDR mediation process your mediator can issue an exemption certificate stating that the other party refused to participate (refusing to pay for FDR mediation is regarded as non-participation).
What is Parenting Through Separation (PTS)?
The Family Justice Reforms make it compulsory (where parties wish to start Family Court proceedings), for parents / guardians with care and contact disputes (FDR) to attend a ‘Parenting Through Separation’ programme.
The Parenting Through Separation course is administered by the Ministry of Justice, and offers education and tools to help you focus on the best outcomes your children during separation.
PTS programmes are four hours long and are either completed in two two-hour sessions, or one four-hour session. In most cases, PTS providers will recommend that separating parties attend separate sessions. Other guardians, such as grandparents or extended family, may also attend.
When parties complete a PTS programme, providers issue them with a certificate of attendance and record attendance.
For more information on the Parenting Through Separation course, see the Ministry of Justice website.
What is Preparation for Mediation (PFM)?
Preparation for Mediation (PFM) is aimed at helping both sides to a dispute communicate their concerns more effectively, chat through emotional matters that may be clouding judgement, and define the issues relating to your children. This is so you can enter your mediation session with confidence and clarity about what you think is best for your children.
PFM may even be recommended by your mediator after he/she has completed your FDR Assessment with you.
There is no additional cost for PFM.
What is Voice of the Child?
Voice of the Child involves a professional specifically trained and experienced in child inclusive practice (Child Inclusion Specialist) working with the children on their own, enabling the children to tell their story in their own way during the FDR Mediation.
In most cases, child inclusive FDR mediation involves the Child Inclusion Specialist:
- meeting with both parents and with the child separately;
- providing feedback to the parents;
- attending the FDR Mediation to speak on behalf of the child; and
- providing feedback to the child after the FDR Mediation on the outcomes agreed by the parents to ensure the child understands the agreements reached in the mediation and to offer support.
Do I need a lawyer to participate in FDR Mediation?
You may get legal advice at any step during the mediation process over the phone or on breaks, and sometimes lawyers may be allowed into the room if the mediator determines it is appropriate. Your mediator will talk to both parties in advance about lawyers being present. However, you do not need to have a lawyer to participate.
What happens if one party refuses to participate in FDR Mediation?
If one party refuses to participate, you must still apply for FDR Mediation and participate in the FDR Assessment. If the other party refuses to participate at any stage, your mediator will issue a form that will entitle you to take the care and contact matter to the Family Court – even then the Judge may refer the matter back to FDR mediation and clearly a party that refuses to participate will take the risk that his or her conduct will not be seen in a good light by the Court. It is in all parties’ best interests to attempt the FDR process and participate as fully as they can as the process is likely to be much less stressful and cost less financially than waiting for a court date and going through the court system.
Can I use FDR Mediation if one of the parties lives outside New Zealand?
Yes – the FDR process is available to anyone who is a New Zealand citizen, whether or not they currently live in New Zealand. For those who are not New Zealand citizens, FDR Mediation is still available as long as the children live in New Zealand.