It depends.

Many members have enquired what is an appropriate price to put in the Family Court request for expressions of interest in FDR work for the Federal Circuit Court that was recently circulated to FDRP’s by the Attorney Generals Department.  This email notice required a fixed fee to be specified for the FDR services that are offered to the court.

As a member association we are very aware of the restrictions imposed by the ACCC, Trade Practices and our consumer laws about setting minimum fees and possible cartel behaviour. 

As I said above the price you charge depends on lots of things and is in your hands.

The Court document asks for a fixed fee while many mediators charge an hourly rate for their services. We are required to provide an indication of hourly rate under ethical standards. 

Some have a practice of charging an hourly rate to each participant for the same mediation taking a “one for me and one for overheads” approach.  Normally there is also two intakes and possibly time to write up an agreement after the mediation.

What is the court likely to consider when choosing FDRP’s for their blitz program?

Minimum Qualifications

That you are a Family Dispute Resolution Practitioner. 

If you have been holding yourself out as a Family Law Mediator but are not an accredited Family Dispute Resolution Practitioner you are excluded from this opportunity. Find out about training to become a Family Dispute Resolution Practitioner with Mediation Institute – CHC81115 – Graduate Diploma of Family Dispute Resolution 


How many years have you been doing this job. We do not know if they will be excluding newer FDRP’s but encourage you to submit your expression of interest.

You’ve got to be in it to win it and who knows how long this list will be the active one they use. 

Legal Qualifications

The Court is a court. Lawyers understand the rules of the court and the ways of judges. 

For property mediations particularly being a lawyer may be seen as an advantage, just as for difficult children’s matters being a social worker or psychologist may advantage you. 

Again with the post graduate qualification in Family Dispute Resolution you should be equipped to offer these services but time will tell if there is any sort of bias in the selection of mediators based on their other qualifications. 

Location – Location – Location

Just as in buying a property, where you are based may become a strategic advantage. 

Being the only available FDRP in Katherine, or Cobram or Kempsey may support a higher price that can be charged in Fitzroy or Redfern or Logan. 

But then again there may be more work available in these suburban locations so a lower competitive price may in the long run be in your interest.

Willingness to service circuit locations.  The Court is the Federal Circuit Court –  There are many country locations that do not have the resources that our city registries have access to.

What to charge for your services?

It would have been a lot easier if the court has published a rate that they will contract for and FDRP’s could then make a decision if it is worth their time to do the work.

As it is we are in a blind action type situation, intended or not.

Do you want to get known by the court and play a longer term game by offering a lower price now? 

Do you recognise that the clients are likely to be high conflict and harder work than your usual clients? 

Family law is recession proof. It is a gift that keeps on giving if you are reasonably capable.  You need to price your services at a sustainable level that take into account the number of hours that are likely to be involved.

You are effectively booking a long half day or full day of your time.  You may get finished earlier but you can’t really take on any other direct client work that day as things may drag on.  The court wants resolution if at all possible so you would do yourself a favour if you put in an extra hour or so to get a deal together as it’s the results that will decide if you get invited back to a second mediation.

One of the things that work being offered by the courts to practitioners is that you don’t have to go out and market your services to get work.  For many practices marketing may cost up to 30% of your income to keep clients coming to your door.  For this reason some people believe that you can justify a fair discount if the work is referred by the court.

Going rates

Some published prices that are out there to give you a feeling about “the going rate”

AIFLAM  AIFLAM members are generally legally qualified (although they don’t have to be). 

Joanne Law and I (Paul Kenna) are both members and Joanne is not a lawyer.  They have a fixed fee full day mediation for property mediations up to $750,000 property pool for $2,157 incl. GST  Parties would normally pay for their lawyers fees individually on top of this.

Relationships Australia Victoria

RA Vic have been running property mediation for the Federal Circuit Courts in circuit locations in Vic NSW QLD & SA for the last couple of years.  In City Registries Registrar’s of the courts have jealously protected their running of these services, but in Circuit Courts these resources arn’t available locally.

RA’s commercial rates are based on $300 personal assessment (per Person) plus $1,000 per person for the preparation and one 3 hour mediation session.  So at $2,600 they are a bit dearer than AIFLAM.

Most practitioners and lawyers hide their costs from clients as if they are ashamed of them, and some lawyers ought to be. I have always made my costs agreements available on my website and have regularly published fixed fee services to help simplify individual choice.  Frequently I may not be the cheapest alternative but I have found that people would rather know a figure up front than to be kept in the dark.

Both my partner Joanne Law and I have submitted quotes to the Federal Circuit Court.  The prices are different reflecting the different levels of experience and speciality.  I suspect I will be considered for property mediations because of my long years of experience as a family lawyer. The type of mediation being proposed is not arbitration but one suspects that it will be higher along the spectrum towards evaluative mediation as the focus is on helping people to reach an agreement and get off the courts list. 

In the end my fixed rate was the same that I charge to appear in the court $1,500 + tax for a half day (to 1.00 pm) or $2,000 + tax for a whole day.  Jo’s charges were $250 less than these rates.  We’ll see how we go with the court as we may have left too much money on the table or we may miss out because someone under bids us at $100 per hour.

I recently participated (as lawyer) in a mediation ordered by the Federal Circuit Court. 

I was pretty doubtful as the parties were high conflict and we had a 2 day trial scheduled for Thursday and Friday this week.  After two and a half years working on the case it was amazing to see the parties finally take a practical outcome that suited both parties.  It was a far better outcome than taking on the risks of a trial and a Judge that could have decided either way.


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