Family Dispute Resolution Service meeting demand

Family Dispute Resolution Service meeting demand

Tuesday, 11 May 2021

As physical courts closed their doors in 2020, our family dispute resolution service (FDRS) worked creatively to meet a significant increase in demand from separating families.

‘FDRS normally completes around 1,000 case conferences per year, but between March and June in 2020, we received around 200 requests for new cases or further conferences per month,’ said Freia Carlton, FDRS Manager.

‘We appreciate that waiting longer to resolve disputes can heighten risk for families and children, so it was imperative that we address this demand.’

‘We secured additional funding for new staff and worked creatively to identify new ways of conferencing for clients experiencing lockdown conditions in Victoria.’

‘We moved overnight to telephone and videoconference services in March, and throughout the year we explored different ways to meet the needs of our clients,’ said Freia.

With face-to-face meetings impossible, this included developing a new enhanced child focus program to support parents to make decisions in the best interests of their children, and delivering the Kids Talk program via Zoom for older children.

‘By working together as a team, we delivered more than 1200 conferences since March 2020, with an average settlement rate of 82 per cent over that time,’ said Freia.  

‘Our timeliness has also improved – it now takes an average of 55 days from case opening to conference completion, down from an average of 84 days at the peak of demand.’

‘I’m pleased to confirm that we have addressed the backlog and delays experienced by families and lawyers, and are back to our usual timeframes,’ said Freia.

Once assessment of a case is underway and a conference is suitable, FDRS can usually book a conference within eight weeks, depending on urgency and availability of all parties. We continue to work within reasonable court timeframes and prioritise urgent cases where possible, including those with pending court dates.

‘We appreciate the patience shown by clients and practitioners during the extraordinary period of demand in 2020,’ said Freia.

‘We are still delivering services remotely, while encouraging clients to attend their lawyer’s offices for conferences, now that’s possible.’

If you are still experiencing delays please contact one of our senior managers and we can try to resolve it. Otherwise you are welcome to submit feedback to the FDRS team through our online survey.

More information

Read more about our Family Dispute Resolution Service.


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