If you are facing a parenting dispute, and you do not need an urgent decision from the Family Court, you will usually be required to attend an out-of-Court family mediation (called Family Dispute Resolution or “FDR”) before you can apply for a Parenting Order, a variation to a Parenting Order, or an Order to Settle a Dispute between Guardians.

FDR is where a neutral mediator helps you and the other parent or guardian to come to an agreement, but not make a decision for you. There are however some circumstances where you will be exempt from attending a mediation.

The first reason is if it is impractical for you or both parties to attend the mediation. This is when you or the other party might live far apart and it could not be reasonably expected for you or them to travel to attend a session. Additionally, either of you may not have the capability to attend the mediation online through platforms like Zoom, or an online platform may be an inappropriate forum for the mediation. Other examples are when a parent or guardian is in prison or in hospital.

The second reason you could be exempt from FDR is if you and the other party have already come to a consensual agreement and are applying to the Court for an order by consent. You will not need mediation in this case, but you may have to complete the free Parenting Through Separation course before applying for a consent order.  

The third reason for an exemption is if there has been former or current Oranga Tamariki (social worker) involvement with the children. Accordingly, if there is are any orders in place such as a Protection Order, you will be exempt from mediation.

The fourth reason is if the other party cannot be reached or does not want to attend FDR. Mediation is founded on willingness and mutual consent, so it cannot work in a situation where a party is unwilling to attend or is absent.

Finally, if one parent or guardian does not have mental capacity or the cognitive ability to make decisions about their child or children, you will be exempt from mediation.

If you are in doubt about whether you will need to attend FDR mediation or if you believe your circumstances exempt you from this step, you should talk to a legal professional about your options.


Leading law firms committed to helping clients cost-effectively will have a range of fixed-price Initial Consultations to suit most people’s needs in quickly learning what their options are.  At Rainey Collins we have an experienced team who can answer your questions and put you on the right track.

Shaun Cousins