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Sat 25th January 2014

What are the upcoming changes to the Family Court?

Filed under: Law & Courts — Jimbob @ 10:51 am

Hello everyone, I’m hoping that you might be able to help me understand what is currently happening in my case.

In late November I filed papers seeking changes to my current contact arrangement. Most of the changes are rather minor issues, the biggest ones would be increasing contact from 1 to 2 overnight stays a week, and increasing holiday contact to a more reasonable level (it’s currently pitiful).

At a meeting regarding holiday contact in November, Lawyer for Child put very heavy pressure on me to agree to mediation. I refused to make a decision on the spot, and told her I needed time to think about it.

Among other things, she said “There are changes to the Family Court coming into effect in the New Year, and if you don’t make a decision now (about mediation), it will be much harder to sort things out later”.

Lawyer for Child has said she would support my request to increase contact, but to be frank, I wouldn’t trust her as far as I could throw her. She swings between condescending and abrasive, and has repeatedly made comments such as “I’m a single mother too, I see things from her point of view”.

My last experience of mediation was a long drawn out affair that took nearly a full day and cost me several thousand dollars in legal fees, while my ex-partner simply sat there (with her free lawyer) and refused to agree to anything. Eventually the mediator wore her down to the point of grudgingly agreeing to one day a week. In exchange I had to agree to jump through a whole lot of hoops.

My ex-partner is currently holding a grudge about our recent a holiday contact case, she won’t even speak to me during changeover, and it’s visibly distressing our child. My Ex isn’t an easy person to negotiate with on a good day, she has a history of being obstinate and I doubt she’ll voluntarily agree to any substantial increase in contact. I don’t have a great deal of confidence that mediation will produce a reasonable result.

What I’m hoping you could tell me is…

Why is Lawyer for Child pressuring me so intensely to agree to mediation? (Does the Family Court have some sort of incentive program for Lawyer for Child to get them to push for mediation?)

What are the upcoming changes to the Family Court? How would they they be relevant to my case or mediation? And when do they come into effect?

Will any of the upcoming changes affect Legal Aid? And will the changes affect my case since it was filed in November? My ex-partner is on a benefit and uses her ‘free’ lawyer to deliberately delay and draw-out every issue at no expense to her.

How much would it cost to take a case like this through to a hearing? (assuming I’m paying for my lawyer) And how long would it take?

- – Jimbob

36 Responses to “What are the upcoming changes to the Family Court?”

  1. CitymanMichael says:

    Hi, I am completely unaware of family law on the other side of the world.

    I would like to advise you, however, that your child is possibly being alienated from you.

    I strongly advise you to learn about “parental alienation” before it is too late.

    Just google that term.

    I wish you the best of luck & hope you are not targeted as many, many dads have been.

  2. Allan Harvey says:

    Hi Jimbob,
    Normally counsel lead mediation is a good fast option.
    This is not the place to discuss active cases.
    I am happy to talk via allan.harvey@xtra.co.nz
    It can possibly be cheap and quick.

  3. Allan Harvey says:

    to answer Jimbob’s substantive questions lots of the Family Court parenting matters are changing.
    A Family Disputes Resolution Service replaces the Court in the earlier stages. Parents pay to use this service and Court becomes a backstop resolver of matters where parents fail to agree at mediation. Much of this will be done without using lawyers. Hence lawyers are opposed to the changes.
    Court is much more likely to impose costs on litigants.
    There are mixed views on the changes but they will happen and time will tell.

  4. Allan Harvey says:

    to answer Jimbob’s substantive questions lots of the Family Court parenting matters are changing.
    A Family Disputes Resolution Service replaces the Court in the earlier stages. Parents pay to use this service and Court becomes a backstop resolver of matters where parents fail to agree at mediation. Much of this will be done without using lawyers. Hence lawyers are opposed to the changes.
    Court is much more likely to impose costs on litigants.
    There are mixed views on the changes but they will happen and time will tell.

  5. Jimbob says:

    Thanks, Allan.
    There’s a lot of information to go through in that link. As near as I can tell, the relevant changes (if I understand correctly) seems to be that Judges will have the ability to order parents to go into Judge (or Counsel?) led conferences (mediation?) prior to going to court. And that compulsory conferences will be the norm?
    (I’m not sure whether they will affect me, since the case was filed prior to the changes)…..

    I’m still trying to make sense of Lawyer for Childs’s comment, and pushing for counsel led mediation…

    My last experience of counsel led mediation was neither quick nor cheap. I’m sure all 4 lawyers involved got paid rather well for 6 hours of sitting around a conference table.

    If these changes are relevant to me, does that mean a Judge is likely to order both parties to attend a Judicial conference – without their lawyers present?
    If so, then Lawyer for Childs motivation for pressuring me into counsel led meditation is possibly founded on financial self interest?

  6. Downunder says:

    That sort of behaviour suggests that your ex resents not having any control over you (as possibly she did before you split up) perhaps because you are no longer with her or because she may realise you are a better parent.

    If your child is distressed at change-overs and there is no constructive conversation between you and your ex then it may be worth considering picking the child up some other way, rather than fuelling the child’s imagination with the mother’s demonising behaviour.

    If this is the nature of the mother’s behaviour now, it is quite possible that your child (especially if it is a girl) will hate you before she is even old enough to leave primary school.

    Dealing with your court case and (dealing with your ex and your child) should be seen quite separately – winning the court case is no guarantee of maintaining a relationship with the child. What you are describing is a potentially dangerous situation for the child’s development and peace of mind but lawyers tend to place their income first, the mother’s wishes second, the child’s welfare third and you I am sorry to say come a sad last.

  7. Allan Harvey says:

    Jimbob,
    The new changes don’t affect you.
    Judges are not going to be involved until after FDR has been and failed in most cases under the new scheme. Clearly you are not understanding this is major change but you don’t need to worry about it.

    Lawyer lead mediation should be concluded within 8 weeks of being approved.
    Why do you need a lawyer? They are expensive and there are other alternatives.
    Don’t talk your case here though, write directly.

  8. Jimbob says:

    Michael & Downunder,

    PAS is something I’m familiar with, and concerned about (for other reasons I’ll not mention here).
    I’m not really sure if there’s much I can do about it. We have times when we get on surprisingly well, however the more the courts become involved, the worse her behaviour gets. From what I know, the courts don’t exactly take PAS very seriously, at least not until it’s been going on for years, then it’s too late.

    The suggestion to change venue for change-over is a good one, her behaviour is definitely affected by the location, and who else is present. However the only way I see such a change being made is if I pursue it through the courts.
    It’s something of a catch 22 situation.

  9. Downunder says:

    When dealing with women;

    it is one thing to have a problem
    damn scary to know you have a problem
    and damn near impossible to find an answer!

  10. hornet says:

    Jimbob, mediation is a total crock – they fence sit, and effectively do nothing except clip the ticket for free revenue – my wife and I went to two of these shams and when I confronted the mediator and asked him how the hell was he supposed to find a solution if he did not establish the facts and position of the other party? We really did enter into that waste of time in good faith only again like everything about the family court sham – we walked away shaking our heads – saying – NOTHING CHANGES – we are NO BETTER OFF.

    This stubborn and deliberate reluctance of the entire system to permit a parent reasonable, quality uninterrupted time with his or her own child is the major cause of Conflict – and as is highlighted here – the system fans this fire for more profit.

    Jimbob – one of the few positives we did have – was demanding a Psychological report of the child – again you will have to pay money to get this, usually in defending the objections the ex will have to one – they never want these because it exposes some truths….there will be home visits to both homes and school – very invasive independent reporting of both family environments for the child – but for what is was worth – in our case – it identified the mother as a narcissistic self serving bitch who had severely harmed the child through Parental Alienation Syndrome – which I had been complaining about for many years in filed affidavits – but surprise surprise the family court did nothing about this at all, awarded her full care and then refused to enforce our court orders for time with the child – go figure – this is totally corrupt – there is no other explanation. they are all aware of PAS – and they use it to enflame conflict for profit – that is what this is all about – sadly when they then put good parents on drugs to “help” them with deal with this forced and deliberate separation from their own child – some dive in the deep end and we see results like Dunedin recently – sad but true……

    The ONLY thing that has worked for us in ten years = was to WALK AWAY – Do not engage in family court at all, and wait for the child to come to us, this year after a wait of 1.5 years the child came to us had a very enjoyable time over christmas and I can see as she grows she will work it all out – but this in NO WAY CONDONES the horrendous shit the family court has put us through …..they are all parasitic dogs – preying on good parents and destroying kids……….

  11. stalkedbymyex says:

    What us a cheaper and in my view a much more effective method of mediation is to invite yr ex to a trained family mediator. Lawyers are not usually allowed to be present and the mediator would be much more professional than the disputes resolute services.i have used them and found them to be quite sexiest.

  12. Ken says:

    Hi Jimbob
    I agree with Allan. Mediation can be effective. Despite all it’s bad rap and history the family court can work if you do it correctly. Most cases I’m invovled in get resolved successfully at mediation.

  13. Scott B says:

    Mediation can work if you do it correctly? Please tell us all how we’ve been doing it wrong!

  14. golfa says:

    #14. It works if you agree with everything the Mother proposes.

  15. Ken says:

    My top five points when going to court would be:
    1 Fight the case not the system.
    2 Focus on the future not the past – ‘I’m only interested in giving our children the opportunity for a full and complete life with both parents.’ Don’t get drawn in or respond to allegations or claims about the past.
    3 Create a parenting plan with a clear cut default position for the full year (term time care, two week holiday care, summer holiday care, mothers day, fathers day, kids birthdays. ie both parents know when the child(ren) are in each parents care. No further agreement or negotiation is required to know when the kids are going to be with each parent.
    4 Get the support of a third party who has an understanding of the system and can give you unemotionally involved feedback and guidance.
    5. Using your support, push to get your case to mediation asap if you don’t get what you are happy with at mediation push to get a hearing as soon as you can. At all stages remember points 1-4.

    The key thing with using the court mediation process is that your case is in the system (and a step closer to a hearing)if you don’t get the resolution you are looking for.

    all the best

  16. Downunder says:

    One of the strategies (where appropriate) we used in court cases was to respond to all the allegations on paper with don’t accept this but make no comment.

    Then state this is what the father is able to manage in terms of on-going access.

    It simply shut down a lot of court cases when the father refused to engage in the bullshit.

  17. Allan Harvey says:

    words of experience and wisdom from Ken and Down under.
    Allan

  18. Man X Norton says:

    Or men could just tell the Femily Court to fuck off. A father doesn’t need some judge’s permission about whether and when he sees his children. Men could let the judges make all the orders they want based purely on women’s lies without response, then disregard all orders and let the system put men in jail so the state pays for men’s existence. If our society wants legions of angry, maladjusted children deprived of father’s input then let our society take responsiblity for this and live with the consequences. Let all the stupid people who vote for governments who tolerate this nonsense pay for the ten thousand more prisons that will be necessary. This society doesn’t deserve men’s contribution.

  19. Scott B says:

    15 LOL yes… although I wouldn’t call that working!

  20. Scott B says:

    16 so I (and I assume most on here) did it correctly and it still didn’t work. So there goes that dumb theory!

  21. Scott B says:

    19 well said.

  22. Julie says:

    Allan, with due respect for helping men on a case by case basis, I think it would be good to explain the general idea at least of extending child access or what ever it’s called. (child access reminds me of CYF cases)

    There are lots of cases going back to court because of child support changes allowing less payment from 3 nights a fortnight.

    I don’t think you have the ability to take them all on.

    Besides, I too would like to refer men and women to a web post explaining how they can deal with the child support change scenario without cost or little cost.

  23. Ken says:

    Downunder ref # 17 the wording I get guys to use is, ‘I do not accept the contents of her affidavit, I chose not to respond. I’m only interested in the future care of our children.’

  24. Downunder says:

    @Ken One of the easiest ways to aggravate a person is to tell a lie about them.

    Lawyers know this and take what they can from a woman’s statement and deliberately turn their client’s affidavit into a lie.

    To the father it appears that those words come from their ex and the scrap is all on.

    It’s a pathetic way to make a living and it is sometimes hard to convince someone that their ex ‘most probably’ (but not always the case) never said what is written down in front of them.

    That’s always the first task to work out from the affidavit whether the ex has issues or the lawyer is just legal slut.

  25. Allan Harvey says:

    Julie, The Child Support changes have been put on hold for at least a year. Minister McClay has told me that IRD’s infrastructure and computer system couldn’t cope and they need time to get it right.
    The Family Court system needs time to understand and develop effective strategies. The system outlined by Ken (post 16 above) and Downunder (17 above) have worked pretty well for Union of Fathers for over 10 years. It has taken us time to develop the strategy but when applied consistently it can and does work.
    I did adopt Max X Norton’s suggestion (post 19 above) successfully but that needs to be done in a way that the Court enjoys the journey you are suggesting they take. My application to discharge a PO did just that for Judge Neil. He on at least three occasions told me; “Mr Harvey I have read your affidavit and we WILL NOT be discussing that today”. However my points were well made and I got what I wanted and largely it was following Max X Norton’s suggestion.
    Copies of that affidavit are available for UoF members to have a chortle over if they wish.

  26. Allan Harvey says:

    Downunder post 25.
    Very true but the secret is to not get wound up by the other sides paperwork and to be able to step back and not be reactive to them or their “white/black knight” lawyer. Frankly the word Truth probably can’t be applied to any FC document. Spin abounds and once you can sit back and say that is their persepective and not get hung up on truth, lies, spin the better your case will run.
    It is also a good reason why Court hearings go a whole lot better when you are sitting alongside someone who isn’t involved in your case and they can help you identify when you are being played by the other party or their lawyer(s). If you can adopt the first three points Ken makes in post 16 your case will flow much more smoothly. Even better with a McKenzie Friend alongside and if you take his advice in point 5 as well and resolve matters at mediation then I’m finding 70% of my cases never make it as far as a contested hearing.

  27. Allan Harvey says:

    Julie,
    Despite the fact it will wind some here up I will answer your post asking about how to handle custody/parenting cases.
    First (and controversial to some)
    ALL contact is good contact be it supervised or not.
    Parenting isn’t possible without contact. I have one chap who has spent the last 8 years inside and he has contact with his son and any contact is better than none in my book.
    Once you have some contact then go for unsupervised contact, once you have unsupervised contact, go for more, add an overnight, add another overnight. Once you are at 2 nights a week then go for more if your lifestyle and work commitments allow. For some people 2 nights a week suits them and their kids. That is fine.
    There is nothing magic about 50:50 but for many it works. If it does for you then move towards a three night weekend, then maybe half the holidays week on week off, then 5:5:2:2 for younger kids or week on week off for older kids.
    The Arizona Supreme Court have a wonderful resource called parenting plans you can google that I have used with chaps since I was first introduced to that resource by Joan Kelly in 2004.

  28. Allan Harvey says:

    Post 19 by Max X Norton
    If you don’t tell the Court to F off (and enjoy the journey) there is are over 11,000 coppers only too happy to enforce the protection order the Court will assuredly impose. In the end I found that while thumbing my nose at the FC and PO was OK for about 6 months I ended up spending too much time inside and away from my kids.
    I did take a religious approach to breaching the PO daily but after a winter in cells I found there are much more effective strategies and I thank UoF for the support I received and the wisdom they were able to impart to me.

  29. paul says:

    lawyers are blood suckers….let her play her stupid games for a few years untill they are older( around 11 12 ) and then ask for them to live with you on a trial basis…(do this without a lawyer) all the paper work is on the net…You will end up in mediation…her lawyer will tell her that she should try it, because unless your a deadbeat a judge will rule in your favour anyway…her lawyer will want a psychiatrist to follow you around to make sure your not up to no good …show the kids a good time …and whalla….shes paying you child support…..so do what i did find a good woman …and the seek revenge on the bitch…

  30. Allan Harvey says:

    Why punish the children till they are around 11 or 12.
    I know several situations where parents took that approach and the kids then said stuff you I don’t want to; give up my friends, home comforts I’m bribed with by the other parent, or because I’m so alienated by the other parent.
    Would have to be one of the riskiest strategies I know of.
    It works if you have been in the kids lives till they are 11 or 12 as they have strong memories and good bonding. But to be absent during the earlier parts of childhood makes this extremely dubious.
    When kids turn 12 or so the Court take a lot of notice of what they say, adolescence is kicking in, kids have more demands on their time with friends, sport, school, extracurricular stuff etc. If a parent has chosen to be absent then kids may just say no to contact and there is nothing the Court, Police or either parent can do about it if that is the child’s decision.

  31. Skeptik says:

    Spot the glaring similarities with the NZ family courts –

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=M3YA6u4ttN0

    http://www.imdb.com/title/tt2636456/

  32. Skeptik says:

    Sound familiar?

    Divorce Corp: Movie Documentary

    Storyline

    More money flows through the family courts, and into the hands of courthouse insiders, than in all other court systems in America combined – over $50 billion a year and growing. Through extensive research and interviews with the nation’s top divorce lawyers, mediators, judges, politicians, litigants and journalists, Divorce Corp. uncovers how children are torn from their homes, unlicensed custody evaluators extort money, and abusive judges play god with people’s lives while enriching their friends. This documentary reveals the family courts as unregulated, extra-constitutional fiefdoms. Rather than assist victims of domestic crimes, these courts often precipitate them. And rather than help parents and children move on, as they are mandated to do, these courts – and their associates – drag out cases for years, sometimes decades, ultimately resulting in a rash of social ills, including home foreclosure, bankruptcy, suicide and violence. Solutions to the crisis are sought out in countries where divorce is handled in a more holistic manner.

    official version from candortv.com
    Documentary

    http://isohunt.to/torrent_details/10053589/Divorce-Corp-2014-DVDRip-XviD-by-JOY-avi

  33. Julie says:

    Skeptic, if you come across the documentary itself, can you share it, please. It sounds interesting by what you’ve shared so far. :)

  34. MurrayBacon says:

    Dear Julie Divorce Corp

  35. Skeptik says:

    Watch “Divorce Corp” for free by signing up for a 5 day free trial of this s video treaming service here –

    http://desmovies.com/play.php?movie=tt2636456

    George Sorge, the Director of “Divorce Corp” gives an interview about the documentary and it’s background here –

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9EDT1GgAFG0

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