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The Family Resolution Process

Family Works Resolution Service, also known as Family Dispute Resolution, helps families reach agreement on parenting arrangements after a separation or divorce, without the need to go to court.


The process involves parents and/or carers working with a qualified family mediator who will listen to all points of view and help the parties involved reach agreement.

The approach aims to reduce stress on families by avoiding, wherever possible, the delays, conflict and expense that court proceedings can entail.

How does the resolution process work?

Step 1: Register

You can register for the Family Works Resolution Service online or by calling our service centre on 0800 737 6583. Click here for more details about how to register.

Step 2: Pre-mediation

Participate in a free one-on-one meeting with one of our family mediators where you will be able to explain your situation in more detail. This is done by phone or face-to-face depending on where you are.

Step 3: Coaching

Participate in a free coaching session with one of our expert coaches. This will help you prepare for your family mediation. This is optional, but will help you to prepare for your family mediation, so this is strongly recommended.

Step 4: Child’s voice

The Family Works Resolution Service is different to other Family Dispute Resolution services because it truly takes into account the voice of the child. That means, if appropriate, a specialist Family Works children’s voice practitioner will meet with your children prior to mediation to ensure their thoughts and feelings are conveyed to the adults during mediation. If any of party is eligible for public funding, child consultation is free.

Step 5: Mediation 

Meet the family mediator and the other party for one or more meetings (usually in the same room, but not always). The family mediator will help you reach agreement on the issues that need resolving. At the end of the final meeting, we will give you a copy of the outcomes along with a court form in case you need more help from the Family Court.

Optional: Parenting support

Family Works also encourages the adults involved in mediation to attend a free Parenting through Separation course. You can do this either before or during the family dispute resolution process. The course provides practical advice and information to keep things as stress-free as possible for your children, including tips to help parents or guardians communicate well. Click here to read more about Parenting through Separation.

Optional: Lodgement

If you want your agreement enforceable by law you will need to make an application to the Family Court (fees apply). You mediator will provide the information you need to do this.


Family Works Resolution Service, or family dispute resolution, is funded by the Ministry of Justice. You can find out whether you’re eligible for the full or partly funded service by using the funding eligibility tool on the Ministry of Justice website. Alternatively, we can talk you through this when you give us a call.

More about mediation

The dispute resolution, or mediation, process is different for every family and each case takes a different amount of time. Your mediator will not ‘take sides’; instead they will make sure that everyone involved in the dispute has an opportunity to be heard.

Your Family Works mediator will help you make decisions that are in the best interests of your children. They will not try to get you back together, make judgement about who is right or wrong, or make decisions for you.

What will be talked about during mediation?

During mediation conversations will be focused around things like:

  • making decisions about how you will look after your children
  • when you’ll see your children when you’re not looking after them
  • pick up and drop off arrangements
  • where your children spend the holidays
  • how you’ll handle birthdays and other celebrations
  • where the children go to school
  • their surnames
  • how their religion or cultural beliefs will be instilled.

Mediation is focused on reaching agreement about your children. In some cases if you are separating or divorcing your mediator may agree to you also discussing relationship property but only if this helps you agree about your children.

Your child’s voice

Sometimes children’s thoughts and feelings are lost with the distress, misunderstandings and distrust that might arise between two separating or separated parents. Your family mediator will explain how a Family Works Resolution Service training child consultant is able to meet with your children to ensure their views are conveyed to the adults during their family mediation meetings.

Mediation agreements

When you reach an agreement as a result of the Family Works Resolution Service, your mediator will type this up for all those included to sign. This is a private agreement, and if the agreement is working for all of you, you don’t need to do anything else.

If you choose, you can ask the Family Court to turn the agreement into a Consent Order. This means that if one of you does not do what’s agreed, you can ask the Family Court to enforce the order.

You do not need a lawyer to ask the court for a Consent Order. However, you may wish to get independent legal advice so that you understand your rights and responsibilities if the order is made. Some free legal advice may be available from the Family Legal Advice Service if you are eligible for government funding. Your mediator will be able to provide you with more information.

If you can’t reach an agreement during mediation, your mediator will provide you with the documentation that will allow you to apply to the Family Court to make a decision.

How much does Family Works Resolution cost?

Family Works Resolution is funded by the Ministry of Justice. For many people the service is available free of charge. Even if you’re not eligible for the fully funded service, the government has subsidised the cost so we can provide the services at a fraction of the cost of getting a lawyer and proceeding to a court hearing.

You can find out more about funding by using the funding eligibility tool on the Ministry of Justice website.


If you are unhappy with any of the service you receive from Family Works Resolution Services, you can make a complaint by emailing Equally, we would like to hear if you have a compliment about our services and you can use the same email address.