Mandatory Early Family Dispute Resolution now in effect – and it’s hard to get an exemption

In March 2021 the rules about going to Court in a Family dispute changed. It is now harder to just go to Family Court to get a decision. You must attempt to settle things with your ex-spouse first and you must get a written certificate proving you tried. You can get the written certificate via collaborative law lawyers, via a mediator, via arbitrator, or via a parenting dispute co-ordinator. A Judge will not hear your application until you provide the written certificate that you attempted to settle out of court.

Practically speaking, most people’s circumstances lend themselves to mediation or collaborative law. Family Matters still offers a free two hour mediation via the Dispute Resolution Office. But if you also want the written certificate for Family Court purposes, you will have to pay for it. There are also family law lawyers who are family law mediators as well, and they don’t seem to be more expensive than the Dispute Resolution Office.

The only official exceptions to this new rule are where there has been:

  1. Interpersonal Violence; and/or
  2. A Restraining Order: and/or
  3. An abducted child; and/or
  4. Your ex won’t attend mediation or hire a collaborative lawyer; and/or
  5. Extra-ordinary Circumstances;

In my experience, a Restraining Order will likely lead to an exemption. Interpersonal violence is a vague term and it hasn’t been defined yet to the best of my knowledge, so the Court may just deny an exemption request based on interpersonal violence. Realistically, if there are no criminal charges laid, it will be hard to get an exemption based on interpersonal violence.

After an abducted child is returned, you will still likely have to get the written certificate.

Myself and other lawyers have asked for exemptions based on extra-ordinary circumstances, but have not been successful. Even if both of us lawyers request the exemption, it still won’t be granted.

But everybody’s case is a little bit different. So call me or another family lawyer to see what your options are.