5E Relationship breakdown and re-partnering


Graeme Westaway,
Better Place Australia

Kristen Poel,
Better Place Australia

Friday November 23 2018

Time: 8:25am – 8:55am

Room: Mossman Ballroom

5E Relationship breakdown and re-partnering

Reaffirming the value of FDR and relationship services in a time of systematic review by using a client journey model approach



In the context of the Australian Law Reform Commission review of the Family Law Act, questions are being asked about ways that separating families could be supported in less adversarial, and safer ways than in the current Family Law system. Whilst the introduction of FDR, Parenting Orders Programs and Family Relationship Centres has had a positive effect in the last 10 years, the challenge for the field of FDR now is that it has been wedged into a field with narrow focus. Better Place Australia has clients who comment that their lawyers consider the certificate application process a tick the box exercise. So the process of FDR is reduced to being part of an inevitable process and its true value diminished and family relationship support not extended beyond the certificate issuing. If the ALRC Commission is seeking systematic solutions then the value of FDR and relationship supports needs to be embedded in a longer and deeper client engagement.

With a strong countervailing reductive view of FDR this presentation uses the device of an actual client’s journey through separation, FDR and the subsequent family court experience. The intention is demonstrate the need to expand not reduce the role FDR and relationship support services. This real client’s journey takes three years, 18 family court appearances, a trial and devastation. This presentation breaks down and examines each of the key steps in this lived journey. The presentation then winds back three years and presents the ideal journey that could have taken place. It also illustrates how the service could be available even when clients proceed to the family court. It considers the broader possibilities of FDR and its hub of services. As the sector knows the reality for families dealing with separation is that they require a fundamental reconfiguration of the relationships within the family system. Post-separation care arrangements for children are just one element of this process. Parents also must to shift their intimate relationship into a parenting relationship. The legal process is often out of sync with the relationship process.

The client journey map shows the key flash points and the barriers that facilitated the real life client’s journey to despair. The system is shown to perversely work against the interests of the children and court participants. The ‘ideal’  journey illustrates the key systematic changes that are required to reduce this despair. This client said after all this that if they had had a hub of support including financial counselling that they would have made substantially different decisions and been so much better prepared for life after family court.


Graeme is the Executive Manager Brand, Digital & Corporate Communications at Better Place Australia, formerly known as FMC Mediation and Counselling. He has over 20 years experience in brand, digital, communications strategy and customer service development.

He has held a number of executive and senior leadership roles in services development, strategy and capacity building across the not-for-profit, mutual and corporate sectors. With an educational background in Science, Marketing and Mediation, he brings to Better Place Australia an expertise in Brand strategy, Services development and Organisational planning.

Kristen Poel is the is Regional Services Manager of mediation services for the South East of Victoria.   She joined Better Place Australia in 2013 as Team Leader of the Family Relationship Centres for Better Place Australia. Kristen commenced her career as a social worker before gaining her registration as a Family Dispute Resolution Practitioner.