Fees introduced for civil disputes in Family Court
The Family Court is about to introduce fees.
Thursday, 31 May, 2012 – 15:03
Fees being introduced for civil disputes in the Family Court will help to better focus its resources, Courts Minister Chester Borrows said today.
The new fees are only for applications for division of assets and child care arrangements and come into effect on 1 July 2012.
Mr Borrows said that a fee waiver regime was being retained to ensure people with limited means had access to the Court. Fees do not apply for domestic violence cases, such as protection orders, or care and protection applications.
“Until now, the Family Court only charged fees for divorce applications. Introducing fees for civil disputes brings it in line with other courts in New Zealand and with family jurisdictions in Australia and England,” says Mr Borrows.
An application relating to child care arrangements will cost a flat fee of $220 with no hearing costs. While an application relating to the division of assets will cost $700, there is also a hearing fee of $906 for each half day. The hearing fee is based on the equivalent fee in the District Court.
“Targeted fees provide an incentive for people to deal with their relationship problems outside of Court, where possible,” Mr Borrows says. “Avoiding court and litigation is usually better for the people involved, and it’s certainly better if children can be kept out of the court process.
“We want the Family Court focused on the people who need judicial involvement and judgments about cases.
“There are a number of other resolution approaches people can use outside of court, including mediation.
“Family Court costs have increased over 70 per cent to $142 million over the past six years and we want people to realise Court processes are costly and should only be used as a last resort. It’s sensible that people contribute toward that cost,” Mr Borrows says.
In my experience as McKenzie friend, I’ve seen quite a few child care cases where the mother filed a new application relatively shortly after decisions were made in a full hearing. From July, such mothers will think twice before applying as they’ll also have to consider potential hearing costs on top of application fees.
However, it is really frustrating that the court doesn’t also make their rulings enforceable. As most of you here know, if the family court made an order outlining child care arrangements and one party breaks the agreement, the other party cannot request police for assistance to enforce the order. Instead, one will have to go back to court and apply for a warrant to enforce contact.
It will be interesting to see how the fees apply in these cases.