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Family court revamp….

As many of you would of heard, there is a new system now in place for Family court cases, focusing on Parents working together to get a solution, using the family court as a last resort.

I have been out of the court process for about 3 years now, and back in February I started looking into the least confrontational way of getting my parenting order back on track. Proposed an arrangement with my ex, which she said no way to, but said that I could see my boy when ever I am in town (He lives in Manawatu, Im in Auckland) It started off ok, with her letting me see him when I was in town, but quickly went downhill as everything else does. In the time that it took, the new system had kicked in.

The 3 years I was in court between 2007 and end of 2010, I was self represented, but when I started looking into the new system I couldn’t make any sense of it, there was nothing I could see that compelled my ex to take part, not to mention the hoops that you have to jump though to now get in front of a judge if they don’t take part. I found out that I was “Funded” so I booked time with a lawyer to find out how the new system works.

As it turns out I was the first client for the firm under the new system. Pretty much from the 2 hours I spent there (was supposed to be a 1 hour appointment but they were trying to work out what forms I needed to fill out so they could get paid.) I just confirmed what I understood from the website.

Brief overview of New System (To my understanding)

Separation/Disagreement about care of children – Both Parents take part in a Parenting though separation seminar (includes existing cases if the seminar has not been done in the past 24 months) This seminar is either 2 X 2 Hour sessions, or 1 x 4 hour session. The only sessions I have been able to find are during business hours, or Saturday mornings. So if there is only one provide in your area, it could take a number of weeks for both parties to take part as you can not take part together. The Seminar is supposed to teach you how to work together to take into account what is best for the child to reach an agreement on care of the child. However there is nothing that can force the other party from taking part. (But the court will not accept an application for a parenting order until you have a certificate saying you have attended, and taken part in Family dispute resolution Mediation.

After taking part in the seminar you should have the tools to be able to reach an agreement between yourselves, if you can’t, then you can take part in Family Dispute Resolution Mediation. Which is basicly a Mediation without Lawyers. If you earn more than $51,000/year expect to pay around $450 for this service. This is a two part process, the mediator will meet with each of you alone, and discuss your issues so they know what to focus on at the conference. Again there is nothing that can force the other party from taking part, if anything if they don;t take part, it will get you into court faster.

If you are unable to reach agreement, or only reach partial agreement at the mediation, the issues that can not be agreed upon are put in front of a judge, who will normally recommend a judicial issues conference, basicly a mediation with no lawyers, with a judge as a mediator. The judge can only approve a consent order at this stage. If there is still not agreement, Then the file is back into the traditional family court system well all know well…

At any time in the process above both parties can seek Legal advice (If you are earning under 51k then you can get legal advice for free) but a lawyer is not able to represent you, file documents for you etc unless Domestic Violence, Sexual abuse, or other high risk items are mentioned. If DV or SA are mentioned, then the file gets fast tracked into the traditional system.

I love the idea that there are no lawyers involved, but I can see it just been more hoops to jump though, and end of the day probably 90% of the cases that would of got into the traditional system, will still get there.

As I go though the programs I will endeavour to keep people updated with how it is working.