New Zealand Law Society encouraged by positive amendments to Family Court Proceedings Reform Bill

Cabinet’s proposed amendments to the Family Court Proceedings Reform Bill are a positive step towards ensuring that the needs of all New Zealanders entering the Family Court system are met, says New Zealand Law Society Family Law Section chair Garry Collin.

“We are very pleased that Justice Minister Judith Collins has listened to the concerns expressed by the Family Law Section, the judiciary and by almost all of those who provided submissions to the select committee.

“The Family Law Section is very relieved that some of the concerns have been taken into account and are reflected in the changes that have been announced.

“From the latest public comments we’ve seen from Ms Collins, the proposed changes are welcomed by the Family Law Section as being entirely appropriate and reflecting the submissions which were made by our members and others who could be affected by the bill.”

Proposed changes include providing up to four hours of legal support for parents who meet the legal aid threshold prior to court, up to three hours of preparatory counselling to help parents make the most of Family Dispute Resolution (FDR), the ability for a judge to refer parties back to FDR or the Parenting through Separation course if it is likely to help resolve the case, and enabling lawyers to participate earlier in the court process, at the judge’s discretion, if it would increase the chances of a successful resolution.

Mr Collin says that until the Family Law Section sees the details of the proposed changes it cannot be absolutely certain that all of the issues have been addressed.

“We’re confident that we are on the right track, but we are looking forward to seeing the proposed amendments to the Act and working with the Ministry of Justice to ensure the changes are appropriately implemented.

“Since the introduction of the bill, the Law Society has worked extremely hard to ensure the government’s proposed changes do not impact negatively on New Zealanders who enter the Family Court, and it will continue to work very closely with the ministry.”