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Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Do I have to attend Family Resolution?

Family Works Resolution is a voluntary process. It has been designed to support families, who are not living together so they can reach agreement on child care arrangements, without going to court. If one party refuses to take part, the other party will be issued a certificate of exemption. This, along with a Parenting Through Separation course certificate then enables the participating party to take the matter to court, if they choose to.

You can’t apply directly to the Family Court without trying Family Works Resolution Service first, unless you have an exemption. An exemption will also be issued if:

  • anyone involved in the dispute, or the child(ren), has been subjected to domestic violence by another party in the dispute
  • one or both parties are unable to take part effectively in Family Works Resolution, for example if one party is overseas;
  • one person has refused to attend or continue attending Family Works Resolution service
  • the case relates to a child who is the subject of proceedings already underway under Children, Young Persons and their Families Act.

If you or your children have been the victim of domestic violence you can go directly to the Family Court to get a temporary Protection Order and/or interim Parenting Order. It’s recommended that you contact a family lawyer if you’re in this situation.

How do I register and how long will it take?

There are two ways of registering to use Family Works Family Dispute Resolution services:

  • By phone

Call us on 0800 737 6583 and we’ll make a time to talk through the registration with you. This service is available 9am to 5pm Monday to Friday and takes approximately 20 minutes. Alternatively you may wish to complete the enquiry form on this page and we’ll get back to you.

  • Online registration

You can complete the registration form in your own time and then email it to us. Once it is received we will give you a call to confirm the details. Complete the online registration here.

Click here to be taken to the registration page.

How long does the Family Resolution process take?

Usually around eight to 10 weeks (compared with about eight months for cases to go through the Family Court.)

How much does mediation cost?

Family Dispute Resolution is a Ministry of Justice funded service. If you’re on a low to middle income the service is likely to be free.
Even if you’re not eligible for the fully funded service, the government has subsidised the cost.

How do I know if I qualify for funding?

Call us on 0800 737 6583 or use the funding eligibility tool on the Ministry of Justice website.

Who decides on the mediator?

Family Works Resolution Service is a voluntary process. It has been designed to support families, who are not living together, to reach agreement on child care arrangements outside of court. If one party refuses to take part, the other will be issued a certificate of exemption. This, along with a Parenting Through Separation course certificate then enables the participating party to take the matter to court, if they choose to.

You can not apply directly to the Family Court with out trying to work things out with Family Works Resolution Service first, unless you have an exemption. An exemption will also be issued if:

  • anyone involved in the dispute, or the child(ren), has been subjected to domestic violence by another party in the dispute
  • one or both parties are unable to take part effectively in Family Resolution, for example if one party is overseas;
  • one person has refused to attend or continue attending Family Resolution Service
  • the case relates to a child who is the subject of proceedings already underway under Children, Young Persons and their Families Act

Do I have to attend mediation with my ex-partner?

Mediation requires all parties to attend however the design of this can vary. It is a voluntary service and any party can refuse to attend. In this case it’s likely an exemption will be issued.

If you have any concerns before or during the mediation process you should discuss this with your mediator. You will have an opportunity to meet with them individually and they will make sure you are comfortable with the process and that it’s fair for everybody.

What does the mediator do first?

Your mediator will meet with each of you individually first to:

  • make sure mediation is right for you
  • decide if either of you could benefit from preparatory coaching before mediation
  • confirm your eligibility for government funding

If mediation is appropriate and you all agree to proceed then a mediation meeting will be arranged when you all meet together with the mediator.

What do I take to mediation?

Our Family Works Resolution coordinator will explain what you need to bring to the preliminary meeting. This may include:

  • proof of identity, such as your current driver’s licence, passport or 18+ card.
  • proof of your annual income, such as a letter from your employer or Work and Income stating what you receive, payslips, bank statements for the last three months or a copy of your most recent tax return.

If you qualify for government funding, your mediator will ask you to sign a funding declaration form if you have not already done that.

Will the mediator force me to agree to something I don’t want?

The mediator is there to listen to all points of view and help you reach agreement yourselves. They will not make decisions for you. They will help you focus on the needs of your children so that you can make good decisions about your children’s future. The mediator will not try to get you and your partner back together again, or make judgements about who is right or wrong.

What do we decide on in mediation?

The mediator will work with you on the issues you wish to discuss. They will help you draw up a plan which may include:

  • where the children live
  • contact and changeover arrangements
  • how to manage special occasions like birthdays and other celebrations
  • childcare and holiday arrangements
  • which schools the children attend
  • health and medical treatment
  • religious and cultural matters.

Will the mediator sort out property issues?

The Family Works Resolution Service is primarily for resolving parenting arrangements for your children. You may discuss relationship property at the mediation if your mediator agrees, and if the resolution of a property matter might support your decisions about your children’s care.

Any agreements made in mediation about relationship property are not legally enforceable. You must go to Family Court to apply for this to be made into a court ordered agreement.

What happens after we agree on a plan?

Once you’ve agreed on a plan, the mediator will type up your agreement and ask you to sign it. This is a private agreement, and if it works for you, you don’t need to do anything else.

If you choose to, 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 you have agreed, you can ask the Family Court to do something about it (enforce the order). Before granting the consent order, the judge will want to be sure that your agreement is in your children’s best interests.

What happens if we don’t agree after mediation?

You can either try to reach a private agreement or apply to the Family Court for a judge’s decision. The mediator will give you a form that shows you attended mediation, and the results of your mediation. You will need this form to show the court that you have attended mediation and what the outcome was.

What happens if one party changes their mind after mediation?

You may be able to discuss and resolve any issues yourselves after mediation. If this is not possible, then you can choose to return to mediation.

A three month stand-down period will apply from the time that you completed your initial mediation. This allows time to see how well your agreement is working day-to-day and to settle into any arrangements. You can return to mediation after three months if there are any issues you cannot resolve. If you’re eligible for fully funded mediation, you will only be able to access this twice in 12 months.

I am feeling stressed. Where can I get support?

Your mediator can refer you for coaching to help you prepare for mediation. This coaching is free if you qualify for funding from the Ministry of Justice.

Do I have to attend Parenting through Separation with my ex-partner?

No, your partner will not attend the same session as you. It is helpful for both partners to attend but this will be at different times. Children do not attend the programme. The course is usually run over two sessions of two hours each. There is no cost to attend this course.

How do children get a say?

The Family Works Resolution Service is a child-focused process designed to help you reach agreements that are in the best interests of your family. To take your child’s thoughts and feelings into account, your family mediator will explain how a Family Works Resolution Service trained child consultant is able to meet with your children to ensure their views are conveyed to the adults during their family mediation meetings.

Do I need a lawyer?

Mediation usually does not include lawyers. However, if you are paying for your own lawyer, they may be able to attend mediation if the other party and the mediator agree. However, they are not able to represent you during the mediation sessions or use any of the contents of the mediation in future proceedings.

You may wish to get legal advice from a family lawyer before, during or after mediation. If you are eligible for government funding, you can get some free legal advice from the Family Legal Advice Service. To find out where you can access this service, use the Ministry of Justice website or contact 0800 2 AGREE.