4E Relationship breakdown and re-partnering


Johanna Wood,
Victoria Legal Aid

Narelle Russ,
Victoria Legal Aid

Thursday November 22 2018

Time: 3:45pm – 4:15pm

Room: Mossman Ballroom

4E Relationship breakdown and re-partnering

Providing Children with a voice in complex family dispute resolution cases


Victoria Legal Aid Family Dispute Resolution Service (FDRS) offers a child inclusive practice program called Kids Talk. Kids Talk aims to provide children a direct say in decisions which affect their lives and provide parents referred to FDRS for legally-assisted FDR with a better understanding of their child’s views, concerns and wishes.

Kids Talk involves a qualified and experienced child consultant meeting with the child and providing tailored feedback to all parties, including the parents, their lawyers and the FDRP prior to the FDR conference. The child’s developmental, psychological and emotional needs then form the basis of generating options and proposals at the FDRS conference. Kids Talk also seeks to assist parents to manage their post separation relationship and parenting arrangements in a way that stabilises their child’s wellbeing and development. In 86 percent of cases involving Kids Talk in 2016-17, the case settled.

Before proceeding with Kids Talk, FDRPs assess whether it is safe and appropriate. This includes the capacity of parents to consider the child’s needs and perspective. FDRS also work collaboratively with other professionals involved with the child (such as counsellors and psychologists) to determine whether the process would be suitable and to ensure the child is supported through the process.

We will demonstrate through case studies that a carefully managed child inclusive practice such as Kids Talk can be suitable to proceed in cases involving families who are experiencing multiple and complex issues (such as mental health, family violence, substance misuse and/or a history of child protection involvement) and result in positive outcomes for the children involved.

Our presentation will explain how children’s participation in decision-making through FDRS in the Kids Talk program assists vulnerable families to resolve complex parenting disputes without recourse to court.


Johanna is the Case Management Coordinator at Family Dispute Resolution Service, Victoria Legal Aid. Johanna is a Family Dispute Resolution Practitioner (FDRP) and oversees the case management team at FDRS. Johanna has been involved in the development of FDRS policy and processes throughout its 14 year history. She is Social Worker, trained child consultant and has previously worked in Child Protection.

Narelle Russ is a Case Management Coordinator at Family Dispute Resolution Service (FDRS), Victoria Legal Aid.  Narelle is a Family Dispute Resolution Practitioner (FDRP) and supervises the work of the case management team at FDRS in conjunction with Johanna.  Narelle is a qualified lawyer having practiced solely in the area of family law for 12 years prior to joining FDRS.