Going to court can be a long, expensive, and stressful process for the parties involved. The family law system understands this and encourages separated parties in parenting and property matters to find a resolution outside of the court system. This process of resolving disputes outside the court system is known as ‘alternative dispute resolution.’

Apart from some limited exceptions, it is now a requirement that parties only make an application to the Court once they have exhausted alternative ways of resolving the dispute. Parties must make a genuine attempt in good faith to resolve their dispute outside the court. This continues to apply both before and during your proceedings.

At O’Sullivan Legal, we understand that navigating these requirements without assistance can be difficult which is why having an experienced, top family lawyer to guide you throughout this process is critical.

Alternative Dispute resolution options available to you

There are a variety of types of alternative dispute resolution options available to you throughout your matter including:

  • lawyer-assisted negotiation;
  • mediation;
  • conciliation; and
  • arbitration.


Negotiation is the first step typically undertaken in the process of dispute resolution. This process is generally informal and can be done over the phone, in writing, or face-to-face. Our team of family lawyers in Sydney is highly experienced in negotiations between disputing parties and can assist you in this process.


Mediation is a structured process whereby an independent third party will be involved in assisting both parties to identify the issues in dispute and facilitate the resolution of those issues with the help of a family law solicitor. If your matter does enter the court system, a Judge or Registrar may also order that parties attend a mediation conference to resolve the dispute.


Conciliation also involves an independent third party who assists you and the other party to resolve any issues arising from your matter. Unlike mediation, in conciliation, the independent party will take a more active role in intervening in the process to provide advice regarding the process of the conciliation and the merits of each side’s case. However, the decision is still up to the parties to decide the issues in dispute and the conciliator cannot force a decision. Conciliation conferences may be run within the Court by a judicial registrar in financial disputes.


Arbitration is a process whereby disputing parties present arguments and evidence to a specially trained and accredited arbitrator. Once both parties have agreed upon an arbitrator, the arbitrator will then determine to resolve the dispute by making a finding.

Choosing the right option for you

Family law is a complex area of practice. Whilst the options discussed above are some of the more common forms of dispute resolution, these are not exhaustive lists of the options available to you in your matter. Our team is comprised of the best family lawyers in Sydney who can help you in identifying which option is best suited for your scenario and represent you throughout what can be a complicated process.