Parents in prison can still use FDR (Family Dispute Resolution)

I love Dad

Dad is in prison. Mum wants a parenting order for day-to-day care of the children.

Before she can apply to the Family Court, Mum is required to attend a parenting-information programme (‘Parenting Through Separation’).

She is also required to use Family Dispute Resolution (FDR), to try to reach agreement with Dad without Family Court proceedings.

Huh? But Dad is in prison.

OR – Dad wants to have some contact with his children.  He too is supposed to use FDR before applying to the Family Court.

Again – huh?  Dad is in prison.

Yes, Dad is in prison.

But that’s not the end of the story….

Although Dad is in prison, he can still access FDR – thanks to FairWay, the Department of Corrections, Pillars (charity providing support for children of prisoners), and the commitment of some specialist mediators.

FairWay is the largest FDR supplier, contracting with mediators throughout New Zealand who provide FDR mediation services. FairWay also provides initial information and screening, and ‘Preparation for Mediation’ services.

And FairWay can provide those services, even if a parent is in prison (though not if on remand).

How come?

I’ve just discovered an article I must have missed first time round – it was published in the Family Advocate (Spring 2016) and is also on the FairWay website:Improving the lives of  children – delivering FDR into New Zealand prisons.’   Written by Keri Morris, FairWay’s FDR Scheme Director and Senior Resolution Practitioner.  It’s worth reading in full – it only takes a couple of minutes.

That article about FDR in prisons explains:

  • why it matters – including, ‘The hope is that by providing a way for a parent and child to remain connected, that will decrease the likelihood of that child ending up in prison themselves, as well as reduce the rate of reoffending.’
  • what it achieves – including, ‘FDR enables parents (including those in prison) and caregivers to make a plan as to how the children can continue having contact with the parent in prison.’
  • how safety risks are monitored and managed –  including,‘We are … very aware that FDR could be used to re-victimise a person and our antennae are up for signs of process abuse.’ 
  • practical issues and learnings so far, including,Reality testing each part of the agreement: If a parent is now allowed to write to a child, is the parent literate? And if literate, do they know how to begin the daunting process of connecting or reconnecting?’

And there’s more. Read it.  And smile, because it is a sign of hope.


Cheryl Simes

26 June 2018

(This blog was inspired by reading Keri Morris, ‘The mystery of FDR: common questions and misconceptions,’ 19(4) Family Advocate (Winter 2018), 32-33. Like the 2016 piece mentioned above, this later article is also available on the FairWay website.)

See also earlier blog: Prisoners don’t cease to be parents.

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