Family Court changes announced
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.”