Submissions on family justice reforms now open

The Independent Panel considering the 2014 family justice reforms wants to hear from people who have used the Family Court and related services. Public submissions are now open and close on Friday 9 November 2018.

“We’re keeping an open mind as to what changes may be needed. That’s why it’s important that we hear from as many people as possible. Submissions from those who have had contact with family justice services, or who work in this area on a regular basis, are crucial in helping us understand the strengths and weaknesses in the system,” says the Panel Chair, Rosslyn Noonan.

In August 2018, the Minister of Justice asked an Independent Panel to consult with those who have been affected by the 2014 family justice reforms and report back to him in May 2019. Those reforms made major changes to the support and advice available to separating parents to help them agree on how their child or children will be cared for.

“We’re inviting anyone with experience of family justice services to tell us about whether they found them helpful in navigating separation and the ongoing care of their children”, Ms Noonan says. “Do the processes introduced in 2014 focus on a child’s welfare, safety and best interests? Do those changes affect Māori whānau, tamariki and rangatahi in different ways? These are among the questions we are asking.”

“Ensuring the family justice system is working as well as it can for everyone, but particularly our children, is absolutely crucial. Agreements on the care of children when parents and caregivers separate need to be both lasting and arrived at in the shortest possible time. As a Panel, we’re focussed on ensuring everyone can contribute and be heard. There is an online tool so people can tell us their story or answer some specific questions. Alternatively, they can also make a separate written, audio or video submission. There is a public consultation document available in English, te reo Māori or ‘Easy Read’ versions which people can use as a guide.”

The Independent Panel has been tasked with considering the reforms introduced in 2014. Those changes were intended to empower separating parents to settle arrangements for the care of their children without having to appear in the Family Court. The key changes included the introduction of Family Dispute Resolution, which allows parents to reach a mediated settlement out of court; and removing lawyers from the early stages of cases under the Care of Children Act 2004, unless the matter was urgent. There has been an increase in the number of urgent applications being made since the changes in 2014.

The public consultation document is available at www.justice.govt.nz/justice-sector-policy/key-initiatives/family-court-rewrite. Submissions can be made in a number of ways: answer some specific questions online at https://consultations.justice.govt.nz; share your story (Korero Mai) at https://consultations.justice.govt.nz; or write your own submission or make an audio or video submission and email to FamilyJusticeReforms@justice.govt.nz.

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