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Family Court changes announced

Filed under: General — gh @ 11:26 am Sun 11th April 2010

Article here
A shake-up of Family Court processes will speed up child care cases, with those involving abuse or violence to receive urgent attention.

Principal Family Court Judge Peter Boshier, who announced the changes today, said cases involving family break-ups often saw bitter disputes between parents.

“This can cause considerable delay in resolving the issues, which can be harmful to the welfare of the children caught in the middle of these conflicts.”

From Monday the more than 27,000 cases filed each year which relate to children will enter the court’s new Early Intervention Process.

Where there are issues of safety for children they will be treated urgently with judges taking responsibility to ensure issues are dealt with swiftly.

Parties in non-urgent cases will be sent to counselling. If this fails they will move on to a lawyer-assisted mediation, then a conference before a judge.

Where the parents are still unable to reach an agreement the case will go before a full hearing under a judge, with wait times no longer than a month.

Judge Boshier said the new system would be quicker, cheaper and more effective than the old ways once Ministry of Justice staff and lawyers adjusted to the changes.

“The Early Intervention Process is a landmark for the court and will be one of its most significant reforms since the Family Court was created in 1981.

“Children need stability restored to their lives after the trauma of family break up, and it is vital to their welfare that the conflict surrounding them is reduced as much and as soon as possible.”

15 Responses to “Family Court changes announced”

  1. Kiwi Skier says:

    This is basically formalising of the Parental Hearing Programme which has been tried for the past 2-3 years in several Courts. Works well in some cases, it’s major benefits is in getting before a Judge and with lawyers more at arms lenght at the first hearing.

  2. Scott B says:

    This does not work. I have been through it and it is worse than what was already in place. BE WARNED!

  3. Rippey says:

    I have a judicial Conference set for 30 April. My ex is only allowing me access to my nearly 3 year old one day a week, when from the time we split in July last year until two months ago I have had him 7 nights a fortnight (as I currently do with my older two kids from my first marriage).

    I will report back on how it goes.

  4. Wendy says:

    Does not work, it only creates more problems and it infact drags cases out becuase it bring more ‘Family Court workers’ into the mix. Just been through 18 months for a simple section 44 case, 18 months!! for a case that was so simple a five year old could work it out.

  5. Scrap_The_CSA says:

    It seems as though the Judges of the Court have delegated their authority to breaucrats much like the admin review system in the Child Tax Act.

    These measures do not address the root cause of the problem – a single parent custody model that takes no account of the childrens best interests but rather creates more jobs for the girls.

    Without a presumption of equal shared parenting this approach will just fuel conflict and increase deparenting of Kiwi Kids.

    Just adding another layer of adverserial conflict to a system that fails dads,mums and kids.

    Regards

    Scrap

  6. noconfidence says:

    My ex is only allowing me access to my nearly 3 year old one day a week

    I presume there is no orders and if that is correct there will be nothing stopping you keeping the child for the 7 days. There is a lot of debate on whether you should assert yourself in these situations. If you do, then mum will say you are controlling, if you don’t judge will assume you are happy with current situation.

    If there is any assistance you need, then let us know. My email is [removed by moderator]
    All the best.

  7. Pete says:

    Is it just me? I don’t really see what exactly it is that they’re planning to change to speed up the process. If it simply means changing the priority of cases based on new criteria, I have little faith.

    If that failure of a court is to be improved, then there are some things the court itself can do without requiring any legislative changes:

    charge people with perjury if they lie in affidavits
    charge people who violate court orders
    apply the same high standard of proof as is typical in other courts

    The only problem is, this means LESS work for the FC and its affiliates, not more.

  8. Skeptik says:

    Pete,
    Spot on brother.
    And powerfully put in so few words.
    I think what the FC is doing is window dressing.
    It’s rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic too.

  9. Rippey says:

    No orders at the moment, for 6 months things were fine. You are right nothing to stop me from keeping my son, but my lawyer advised me to not play the “might-is-right” game, and that she will look my ex will look bad if/when it goes to court because of how she has behaved. I have made it very clear that I am extremely unhappy with the situation.

  10. Rippey says:

    I attended the Judicial Conference today. It only lasted for about 10 minutes. The judge had all the documentation, but mainly focussed on the recommendation from the lawyer for the children, which stated that he believed that an urgent 1 hour hearing should be granted asap to focus on an interim arrangement for care of the children, and that within 7 days each side should complete an affidavit setting out what they feel the arrangements should be, and within the following 7 days complete an affidavit responding to the other sides affidavit.

    My ex’s lawyer tried to argue that we should go to mediation, but I told the judge I felt mediation would have no chance of success.

    The judge then agreed with lawyer for the children and so thats what will happen. Hopefully the 1 hour hearing will happen soon after the 14 days allowed for affidavits, and I can get back to spending a decent amount of time with my kids.

    So for me this was a good outcome – so far so good.

  11. MADD says:

    How long from judicial conference until hearing?

  12. Allan Harvey says:

    Kia ora MADD and Rippey,
    The answer to how long depends?
    In Rippey’s case clearly it needs to wait the 14 day exchange of documents period but for a solitary hour of judges hearing time you might expect 1-2 months.
    For a half day (2 hours) expect 2-3 months, for a whole day (4 hours) expect 3-8 months, for more than a day expect 3-12 months. Courts are under a heap of political and bureaucratic pressure to get cases resolved within 12 months but often they fail. They like to move cases along but often one side benefits from delay and the other side is prejudiced by delay so the legal game is complicated by who plays most successfully in the charade.
    The above is for matters involving parenting which gets a higher priority than matters like, admonishment, property, child support etc.

  13. MADD says:

    Thanks Allan. She has a temp protection order (I’m defending it). The three month point was this week just fine and judicial conference includes this, but isn’t for another month. I just thought it might’ve been a bit more urgent than that?

  14. Allan Harvey says:

    Technically you are supposed to have your defence heard within 42 days (6 weeks) of filing your paperwork but normally it takes longer.
    I often advise using delay to complete the Living Without Violence indoctrination course, get the certificate of completion and then negotiate with the other side for undertakings. Keeping matters out of Court is often an expedient strategy that saves money and heartache.
    Judges are extremely reluctant to discharge orders made by other judges. More times than not it is a complete waste of time and money to attempt to fight a Protection Order after the Temporary PO has been made. My experience is that Judges take the defence more like an appeal and that is about judges covering for other judges no matter if the temporary order should have been made or not. Judicial thinking is that my fellow Judge decided it was neccesary and rightly or wrongly I will uphold their decision (just like the uphold my dubious decisions.)
    Fighting protection orders is normally just a way to keep your lawyer updated with the current model of BMW.

  15. Downunder says:

    Judges are extremely reluctant to discharge orders made by other judges. More times than not it is a complete waste of time and money to attempt to fight a Protection Order after the Temporary PO has been made. My experience is that Judges take the defence more like an appeal and that is about judges covering for other judges no matter if the temporary order should have been made or not. Judicial thinking is that my fellow Judge decided it was necessary and rightly or wrongly I will uphold their decision (just like the uphold my dubious decisions.)

    This is not quite how I see this. When I look at the criminal court system I see a judge make an order as required, a judge discharge an order where necessary, and the appellant system operating, with different levels of judges.

    In the civil system, as in the Family Court, a woman applies for ‘an order’ and is given ‘an order’ so, when a judge discharges ‘an order’ he is not questioning the other judge’s granting of ‘the order’ he is taking it off the woman.

    The protection order is effectively a High Court injunction on authority/interference/control/possession/association/participation (you name it) on the lives of the mother and HER children.

    It is draconian law.

    If the mother is not capable of dealing with the father, the court system will do it for her.

    Therein lies the conflict with guardianship and Judge Burns going down the track he did, which fortunately (as is recorded on Menz) was ruled repugnant to justice in a High Court ruling.

    We were headed down the path of Civil Law being superior to Criminal Law. That’s what Clark wanted and she made no bones about it. She said that loud and clear one night on the 6 o’clock news.

    You’ll remember we had guys in jail for sending Xmas Cards to their kids.

    The conflict between the Domestic Violence Act (and the then Guardianship Act for us old campaigners) was in the protection order automatically applying for the benefit of the children, and the court applying the best interests of the child principle.

    The way I saw this was that the Domestic Violence Act, gave ownership of the order to the mother, and it was then the courts duty to uphold the order. The only chance you really had of getting rid of that order was if the Mother abused the order to the detriment of the children, but if you didn’t have a custody application in, saying you’d look after the children, they wouldn’t discharge the protection order.

    But you’re right, in that you have to weigh up whether you are going to contest a protection order. Is it worth it. Took me about 7 years to get rid of mine, but it was worth beating those [expletives deleted] for the sake of my children.

    It’s a vicious game, but it’s real, because some people do believe in State Control. You have to see it for what it is, and you have to know how these people think.

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