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Wed 20th April 2011

Family Court shake-up ‘frightening’

Filed under: Law & Courts — Jono @ 9:50 am

There is so much in the news latterly about abuse on our kids and how the Government is meant to be helping with support. But then I read this morning in the online nzherald that The Family Court could be curtailed without compromising justice for vulnerable parties, such as children at risk of abuse or victims of domestic violence.

link

29 Responses to “Family Court shake-up ‘frightening’”

  1. Scott B says:

    This line got me… “People have to be able to access the court if they are unable to resolve things themselves.”

    Since when do we have access to the courts? If we are super rich or can get legal aid (for how long?) then we can, otherwise we cannot!

    All this and the legal aid reform is going to do, is increase the domestic violence stats (not actual domestic violence). I bet you!

    Oh and there is going to be a survey? Wow! Big deal! Remember the loaded questions on the child support one? Has anything happened with that?

  2. womble says:

    I notice in this article.
    http://www.nzherald.co.nz/nz/news/article.cfm?c_id=1&objectid=10720386

    Mr Power said there will be an opportunity for the public to take part in the Family Court review, when a public consultation paper is released in September this year.”

    So, if we’re all going to be writing submissions, what do you all think the key problems are?
    I’d start with:-
    1) Openess.. The press and the public need to see what’s going on in family court!

    2) Perjury. Cases of blatant perjury need to be pursued and punished.

  3. Scott B says:

    I agree with your points, let me add a few more…

    3) Time. It takes far too much time to even get to mediation let alone court.
    4) The costs.
    5) Evidence – there seems to be no need for it at all presently.
    6) Accountability and repercussions for both parties, with evidence.

  4. Scott B says:

    7) Accountability and repercussions for the court and people working in conjunction with the court, with evidence. With an outside body governing over it!

  5. womble says:

    You make very good points, I personally spent 9 months waiting for a hearing. And the cost was crippling.

    I certainly like the idea of an outside body watching the court, but I’m concerned that it would necessarily be filled with lawyers and ex-judges, and be about as effective as the Law Society. Thats why I feel the press would be better.

    One idea that has just occurred to me recently, is that legal expenses for family court, should be deductible from child support liabilities. This would make custodial parents on legal aid, much more willing to negotiate.

  6. Vman says:

    One idea that has just occurred to me recently, is that legal expenses for family court, should be deductible from child support liabilities. This would make custodial parents on legal aid, much more willing to negotiate.

    You would have to limit this to only legal expenses to have contact orders enforced. Otherwise you would get a reverse problem where people would constantly bring trivial issues to court simply to deny the other parent “child support” money.

  7. Vman says:

    I think we should look at this review positively.
    At least it signals a major shake up of the FC is on the cards.
    Also it has highlighted the gross waste of money spend on “services”.

    I can’t help being skeptical about where it will end up but at least a major review is being discussed.

    After all, what is required is a complete overhaul of the system. This review is at the very least signaling that all is not well with the FC. In fact that the trend is that things are getting much worse.

  8. Jono says:

    In effect your punishing you child or at least in a sense making your child pay.

  9. Vman says:

    Look at the terms of reference for the review:

    The purpose, role, and functions of the court, and the role of lawyers, psychologists, mediators, counsellors, and social workers.

    Incentives for resolving disputes outside the court.

    The reasons for increasing costs.

    These are all laudable reasons to have a review.

    We should be looking at the desirable outcomes for most children. We can then see if the purpose of the family court is in alignment with those outcomes.

    For example if the desirable outcome is for most children to continue to have a meaningful and lasting relationship with both parents as far as possible – then we can see that the purpose of the family court is not in alignment with that outcome. Therefore it is no surprise that this outcome is not being reached.

  10. Vman says:

    Jono, can I just clarify your point?
    Let’s examine the most common situation before the FC.
    The mother is preventing/obstructing the child from seeing her father.
    The father is paying child tax.
    The father has no real options but he can and he does file proceedings in the FC to try to maintain his relationship with the child.

    Womble proposes that the cost of these proceedings should be deducted from child tax liabilities.

    Jono claims that this proposal from Womble is punishing the child or making the child pay.

    Do I understand you correctly Jono?
    If I have understood you correctly Jono, can you please explain your reasoning?

    Are you claiming that taking additional money from the father in his attempt to enforce an existing court order (for example) is NOT making the child pay?
    I have never been able to grasp this concept that money taken from the father has no impact on the child. Please explain why this assumed to be true. It defies all rational examination.

    If I have misunderstood your point Jono. Can you please clarify it for me?

  11. Vman says:

    You make very good points, I personally spent 9 months waiting for a hearing. And the cost was crippling.

    9 months!!! Wow they have become so much more efficient than they were! You case must have been exceptionally simple to get to a hearing that fast.

  12. Wayne says:

    I posted this link on another thread a few days ago but feel it would best be placed here for those seeking information from the source:
    http://www.beehive.govt.nz/release/minister-releases-terms-reference-family-court-review

  13. Vman says:

    Thanks Wayne

  14. Scott B says:

    Well said Vman

  15. Jono says:

    If I have understood you correctly Jono, can you please explain your reasoning?

    Sorry it wasnt very care. As long as its from the money that is put into child support.

  16. womble says:

    Otherwise you would get a reverse problem where people would constantly bring trivial issues to court simply to deny the other parent ‘child support’ money.

    I agree that there would have to be some limits to prevent malicious litigation. Perhaps something as simple as only having 50% of court costs deductible. I don’t think it should be limited to just enforcement of contact orders though. Establishing a parenting order in the first place should also be included. (And non removal orders)

    The problem at the moment is custodial parents on legal aid have absolutely no motivation to go to mediation, it costs them nothing to delay and stall indefinitely.

    It definitely comes under:-
    “ยข The incentives to encourage people to resolve their relationship disputes outside of the court.

  17. womble says:

    In effect your punishing you child or at least in a sense making your child pay.

    I disagree, the custodial parent would be punishing the child.
    If a custodial parent knows that refusing to negotiate will cost them money, and they still refuse to negotiate, it is the non custodial parent that is responsible for that decision.

    I think its fair to say that its in the best interests of the child for both parents to negotiate, rather than go to court.

  18. Jono says:

    I think its fair to say that its in the best interests of the child for both parents to negotiate, rather than go to court.

    I totally agree with you. The first time we split we went throu the “relationship services” part of the FC and found they only listen to what the X wants (I latter found out why). If you dont agree or wish to have your say, its then deemed “a failure”. What person whos been involved with there baby/child since birth would agree to 2 hours a week?

    Eventually an agreement was settled with lawyers for 50/50.

    The second time we split, Police & CYFS got involved. Im sure I need say no more.

  19. Scott B says:

    Agreed the custodial parent whilst on legal aid can stall and disagree with everything and anything and give no reasons why! It is even worse when they know that you cannot financially afford to get to court and or don’t qualify for legal aid. Therefore keeping you in the mediation circle with no-where to go. And as usual it is the children who suffer. How can a court who apparently look after the best interests of the children allow this sort of thing to happen?

  20. Doug says:

    Abolish the Family Court, get lawyers out of the process, intoduce a mediation service for the parties involved – PROBLEM SOLVED

  21. Scott B says:

    Mediation does not work and will continue not to work unless the mediator has some power.

  22. Doug says:

    In that case, arbitration. The falacy is that the adversarial system will bring out the truth when the opposite is the reality. Remove people who have a financial interest in broken families and a financial incentive to kept the dispute alive (and create new ones)

  23. Vman says:

    Exactly correct Scott. There is almost no incentive for a mother to agree to more than a token involvement of the father.
    I think if parents knew they were likely to end up with about 50/50 if it went to court then suddenly there would be a huge incentive to compromise and settle outside of court.
    I am not suggesting forcing 50/50 for most cases is a panacea – it is simply vastly superior than the current approach in terms of outcomes for most kids.

  24. Scott B says:

    Also there needs to be proper repercussions for those who fail to adhere to the agreements/orders. My ex has pretty much ignored every single order and has had zero consequences! Again the children suffer.

  25. Scott B says:

    I think the 50/50 thing is a good idea.

  26. Scott B says:

    I also think that if anything like abuse or violence is brought up, it should be deferred to the criminal courts, so a jury can decide!

  27. Mits says:

    I totally agree that any claims of abuse or violence should be deferred to the criminal courts. This would then hopefully bring up the spectre of perjury for frivolous claims the snouts at the family court use to pad their wallets and purses.
    And with 50/50 custody as the set point for femily caught then there will be more emphasis on negotiation before caught.
    Of course this will need to be reconciled with WINZ’s policy of who ever claims first wins regarding the DPB (a benefit that I have previously described as morally wrong and the first that should be abolished)

  28. Scott B says:

    DPB and child tax should be abolished. Apart from the cases where the other parent has passed away.

  29. blamemenforall says:

    Simon Powers review of the Family Court might bring about improvement in some ways, but if so this will certainly not result from any concern in him for families or men. Any reduction in the operation of the Family Court will probably be an improvement, because the less we have judges making decisions and lawyers influencing decisions on the pretence that they know what’s best for children, the better. Also, charging a fee for using the Family Court and making it more difficult to obtain legal aid will reduce the number of vindictive applications currently made by DPB beneficiaries knowing they will never be made to repay legal aid while their exe’s have to pay to defend themselves and their children.

    However, Simon Powers terms of reference and statements about the review suggest he plans to attack the few positive things about the Family Court system (like free relationship counselling and the policy of seeking advice from people supposedly trained to know more about what’s best for children) while leaving its family-wrecking, male-bashing services untouched.

    His own press release reported on beehive.govt.nz quotes him:

    ‘I want to make it clear that where women, children, and other vulnerable people have been harmed, or are at risk of being harmed, the State will provide legal means to secure protection.’

    His gender-specific wording makes it clear that he sees the Family Court as serving women primarily. He is happy for state forces to continue their reign of terror against men at the whim of women, throwing men out of their homes without due process, separating them from their children, stripping them of their assets and enslaving them to pay ongoing for the lifestyles of the women who betrayed them.

    However, public submissions provide an opportunity to let Simon know that a growing number of men can see what’s going on, and to let him and his ilk realise that they will be held accountable for their crimes against humanity. So please, take advantage of this opportunity.

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