NZ McKenzie Friend Information
Take a Friend to Court
If you are representing yourself it is highly recommended that you take someone with you to be a McKenzie Friend. This person is allowed to sit beside you in court; take notes; give suggestions or advice to you; and propose questions and submissions for you to put to witnesses or the court. The friend is not generally permitted to address the court themselves. A number of fathers complain that the written record of proceedings is different from what they heard the Judge say - with a witness present this is much less likely. On your own you may miss the chance to ask vital questions which a less emotionally involved assistant can think of. There may also be situations where you start loosing your cool, and a swift kick on the ankle under the table could prevent a disaster. Be sure to pick someone that presents well and is reasonably intelligent. Your local Union Of Fathers representative may know of someone with experience in your area.
NZ Courts Introduce a Contract
Since the end of 2003, persons appearing at New Zealand Family Courts in the role of a McKenzie Friend have been forced to sign a contract like the one on this page. The legality of of removing or limiting the traditional right to support in court has yet to be tested by appeal to a higher authority.
March 2005 update: If your McKenzie Friend is not comfortable signing the declaration linked to above, please contact Alan Candy (021) 660050 to discuss an alternative approach.
If your ex-partner Objects
In 1995 a woman objected to her ex-husband being allowed a McKenzie Friend on the grounds that he was a member of COSA (Casualties of Sexual Allegations), and therefore biased. The proceeding involved the determination of access issues against a background of sexual abuse allegations. The proposed friend Mr K had his own personal experience of the Family Court and was critical of its process and officers of the court. He held a firm belief that a major percentage of sexual abuse allegations were false and that this was so in this case also. Judge J M Doogue ruled that:
- Mr K shall be entitled to be present to assist the applicant as "McKenzie friend".
- He shall be required to observe the limits of that role as set out in the memorandum approved by the High Court in the Mihaka decision.
- He shall not be entitled to retain any copies of any of the pleadings or reports in this proceeding.
- He is precluded from being a party to any publication of any part of the pleadings or any details leading to the identity of the children or parties to the proceeding.
- No costs shall be awarded on this part of the hearing.
A copy of Judge Doogue's decision can be downloaded here: McKenzieFriend.PDF (21.9KB)
This information is from the Shared Parenting Information Group (SPIG) UK - promoting responsible shared parenting after separation and divorce: www.spig.clara.net
The term 'McKenzie friend' relates to the UK case of McKenzie v McKenzie - a divorce action where the judge had mistakenly debarred the "friend" of a litigant. The matter went to the Court of Appeal and is reported in  3 WLR 472, upholding the ruling of Lord Tenterden in Collier v Hicks [7 June 1831] that:
"Any person, whether he be a professional man or not, may attend as a friend of either party, may take notes, may quietly make suggestions, may give advice ..."
On 25 July 1991 the matter came before the United Kingdom Court of Appeal and Sir John Donaldson, Master of the Rolls made the following rulings:
- Fairness and benefit of doubt
- Litigants in person should be given all reasonable facilities, and in case of doubt should be given the benefit of that doubt, for the courts must not only act fairly but must be seen to do so. Any unfairness, whether apparent or actual and however inadvertent struck at the root of justice.
- The right to assistance
- A party to proceedings had a right to present his own case and in doing so to arm himself with such assistance as he thought appropriate. Thus he could bring books and paper with him, pens, pencils, his spectacles, a hearing aid and any other form of material assistance he thought appropriate. If he wished to have an advisor, it was convenient that he should mention that fact to the justices or their clerk in order that they knew why the person concerned was sitting next to the litigant.
- Permission not required
- The Leicester magistrates had adopted the attitude that the applicant could only be assisted by a friend with the express permission of the court. That was wrong, it was not a question of seeking the leave of the court.
- Not for the court to consider
- It was not for the court to consider in advance whether the applicant needed assistance. Unless there were clear grounds in the proper administration of justice for denying assistance it was enough that he thought he needed it.
- Grounds for objection
- The court might object and restrict a litigant in the use of assistance if it became apparent that the assistance was not being provided bona fide but for an improper purpose or was being provided in a way which was inimical to the proper administration of justice.
The full reports were in The Times 5 August 1991 and The Guardian 14 August 1991.