Frequently asked questions about the Family Dispute Resolution Process in New Zealand and about how to find a mediator that is right for you. Custody, Parenting through Separation, parenting plans.

1. What is FDR?

FDR is a mediation service that helps parents and care givers to agree about the care of children when they can't agree on their own.  A mediator will meet with you individually and together and will provide a process that enables you to gain understanding about what is important for each or you and your children.  They will help you look at the situation differently and work together to find a way forward that is in the best interests of your children.

FDR mediators from FDRNZ can also provide mediation where you have a disagreement about money or property.

2. Who can provide FDR?

FDR services can only be provided by a mediator who has been accredited as a Family Dispute Resolution Practitioner (FDRP).  All the mediators in this group are qualified and experienced FDRP's.

3. Is FDR compulsory?

You can only apply to a family law court for a parenting order when you have a certificate from an accredited FDR practitioner.  The FDR practitioner will issue a certificate if they determine that the dispute is not suitable for FDR or at the end of the FDR mediation process . The requirement to participate in FDR applies to new applications, and applications seeking changes to an existing parenting order.

FDR is not compulsory for disputes about money and property.

4. What are the exceptions to having to engage an FDR provider?

There are some exceptions to compulsory FDR where:

  •  you are applying for consent orders
  •  the matter is urgent
  • there has been, or there is a risk of, family violence or child abuse
  • it is not suitable for FDR

If you think any of these exceptions apply to your situation talk to your FDR mediator who will ask you to provide information to show that one of the exceptions applies to you.  Your FDR mediator will be able to give you information about agencies that may be able to offer you help.

5. What if there is violence or abuse towards me or my child, or if one parent has a drug or alcohol dependency?  

Violence and Emergency Situations

Your child's safety and your own safety come first.  

You do not have to let anyone have contact with your child if that puts you or your child at risk. Family violence and abuse have huge impact on children - don't put them at risk.  Get help now.

If you or your children are in immediate danger call the Police by calling 111, Women's Refuge Crisis Line 0800 REFUGE (0800 733 843) or Child Youth & Family by calling 0508 FAMILY (0508 326 459).

To find out about protection orders see a family lawyer.  You can find a family lawyer at: www.familylaw.org.nz 

6. Who can go to FDR?

Anyone who is involved in a dispute concerning the care of children can go to FDR process. This can be parents or others who are involved in the decision making and care of children.  If no one objects, a support person or other family member can attend with you. If you would like your lawyer with you need to discuss this with your FDR mediator.

7. What if you can't take part in FDR?

You may not be able to take part in FDR for a few reasons such as mental illness, if you or the other party is in prison, if one of you lives overseas or if the other party does not wish to participate.   Talk to the FDR mediator about any reason why you can’t take part and they will help you make a decision about what to do.

8. Can I get access to legal advice before FDR?

If you want legal advice before going to mediation you can talk to a lawyer.   If you qualify for funding you may be able to get some initial advice and assistance for free.  If you do not qualify for funding, you will need to pay for legal advice.

To find out whether you qualify for funding go to the funding calculator at  or talk to your mediator. 

If you think you may qualify ask the mediator when you call whether they offer the government funded service.

9. Does FDR involve counseling?

It is normal to feel stressed, hurt or angry about your relationship issues which can stop you from being able to think clearly about your children's care.  Counseling can help you prepare for the conversations you need to have at mediation about your children.  Your mediator may recommend that you undertake counselling before you take part in mediation.  If you qualify for funding you can obtain some counselling for free.

10. What is the Parenting Through Separation Course?

To get the most out of your mediation sessions we recommend that you complete a Parenting Through Separation course before mediation.  These sessions help you to put your children's needs first and start thinking about what parenting arrangements you think will work for them before you come to FDR mediation. 

Parenting through Separation is free to everyone.  

To find out more about Parenting through Separation and where to find a session visit www.familyworks.org.nz or call FREEPHONE: 0508 TO HELP (0508 864 357)

Parenting Through Separation – Family Works


11. Will your children be included in FDR?

In most cases your children will not take part in FDR.  Talk with your mediator about the best way to ensure that any agreement you reach will meet the needs of your children.

Have a look at this page on what is important for your children when going through separation.

12. Can you mediate disputes about money or property?

The FDR Mediator can help you resolve other issues such as those about money or relationship property.  There are some differences that you need to know about, in particular:

  • Any agreement reached will only be binding if you have each obtained independent legal advice and your lawyers sign the agreement to say that they have provided this advice;
  •  In most cases you will have to pay the costs of mediation about property yourself.  Normally the mediator would suggest that you each share the costs equally.

13. What information will an FDR practitioner provide?

Before you start FDR, your FDR mediator will tell you about the FDR process, your rights (including your right to complain about the service), his or her qualifications, and the fees charged. The FDR practitioner will give you information about parenting plans and other services available to help you.

 14. What happens during FDR Mediation?

Before FDR mediation takes place a decision will be made by the FDR mediator as to mediation is suitable for your situation.

FDR mediators will not take sides or make decisions for you. They can help you to talk about family issues in a manageable and constructive way. 

FDR mediation can help each of you to discuss issues, look at ideas for ways forward, and work out how best to make good decisions about your children's future; you can use mediation to develop a parenting plan to set out arrangements for your children. An FDR mediator will also check that everyone understands what is being said and agreed to.

15. What are they key issues for children during separation?


Children need their parents in their lives, regardless of the issues in the parent’s relationship.

Children need to be kept safe and to be cared for. They also need their family and whānau.  Having grandparents, uncles, aunts, cousins and friends in their life is important.

Making sure children maintain relationships with both their parents and their family/whānau is important for their:

• self esteem and mana

• ability to adjust to your separation

• emotional development

• family relationships and whānaungatanga

• ability to deal with difficult times.

Children are not able to see the situation in an adult way. They view the world from their own perspective because they don’t have the experience to see the bigger picture.

The best decisions for your children are where:

• their parents and the important adults in their lives co-operate with each other

• parents and children (when they are old enough to tell you what they think) work together to sort out how you will care for them in the future

• agreement is reached without fighting and arguing

• children are encouraged to talk about their feelings and be involved in the plans – this will help them adapt to their new lives

• you both stick to what you agree but stay flexible and co-operate if something needs to be changed for your children’s sake

• there are as few changes as possible to other parts of your children’s lives.

• It is important that children keep seeing their other parent, if possible

• time not seeing one parent seems much longer for children, especially for children aged six or younger

• even a short time without contact can be hard for children.

(Source:  Putting your Children First; Parents Guide to Separation, Ministry of Justice) 

16. Are things said at FDR confidential and can they be used in court?

Everything you say in front of an FDR practitioner is confidential – except in certain circumstances, such as to prevent a threat to someone's life or health or the commission of a crime.

What is said during FDR cannot be used as evidence in court. However, an FDR mediator must report child abuse or anything that indicates a child is at risk of abuse, and this may be used as evidence in some circumstances. 

17. What if you are feeling unsafe?

It is important that you feel safe, and are safe before, during and after FDR.

If you have any concerns about your safety or the safety of your children, you should tell the mediator as soon as possible. This may mean that mediation stops or does not proceed. However, if parties agree, and the mediator thinks it is appropriate, they can participate in mediation without being in the same room.

There is no requirement to undertake FDR mediation if there has been family violence or child abuse. 

18. What happens to an agreement reached at FDR?

If you reach agreement on arrangements for your children, this can be recorded as a parenting plan. A parenting plan must be in writing, dated and signed by both parents. Your agreement or parenting plan can include mechanisms to change arrangements and resolve disagreements. Parenting plans can be renegotiated over time, if necessary.

Be aware than any changes to the care arrangements for your children can affect child support. 

If you want to make your final parenting plan or financial agreement legally binding, you can apply to the court to have your agreement made into a consent order. You can do this yourself or ask your lawyer to do it for you. 

19. What if FDR doesn't work?

Even if you can't reach agreement, FDR mediation may help you and the other person or people who care for your children communicate better. If you try FDR mediation but still need to go to court because of a parenting order, you will need a form from an accredited FDR mediator.

  • The form will say one of the following:
  • The FDR mediator decided your case was not appropriate for FDR, or
  • The FDR mediator decided it was not appropriate to continue part way through the FDR process.


20. What will it cost?

 The cost of FDR depends on your financial circumstances. If you qualify for funding you can get mediation, some counselling and some legal advice for free.

To find out whether you qualify for funding go to this funding calculator at  or talk to your mediator. 

If you do not qualify for funding you can still use FDR mediators but you will have to pay a proportion of the cost, ask them what they will be.

21. Where can I find more information?

Call any mediator on this website for more information or have a look on this resource page.