web analytics
The Standard
Advertising

Save the Family Court

Written By: - Date published: 10:20 am, February 11th, 2013 - 7 comments
Categories: child welfare, democratic participation, families, human rights, law - Tags: ,

The Government’s Family Court Proceedings Reform Bill is receiving submissions until this Wednesday, 13 February.  For a number of reasons this Bill needs drastic alteration.  The women at the Women’s Health Action Trust and the Auckland Women’s Health Centre have put together an excellent document as to why the Bill is headed in the wrong direction (pdf), and shorter (pdf) and longer templated submissions (pdf) against it.  I presume they’ll be happy with me bringing it to a different audience, in a bid to get more submissions against the Government’s Bill.

Rather than me re-hashing the flaws in the government’s bill, let me quote a large section of the document: (bolding mine)

The stated aims of the Bill are to reduce the costs of the Family Court and speed up its processes. The Bill does this by introducing a variety of measures that limit access to the Family Court and simplify the Court processes. Family Dispute Resolution (FDR) Providers will be established to create a formal (privatised) approach to out-of-Court dispute resolution, principally for care of children and guardianship proceedings. Counselling sessions will be slashed from six hours to one. Parties will work with an approved FDR provider such as a mediator, to reach agreements. This will be compulsory. The use of Court professionals (psychologists and lawyers) will be restricted and lawyers for children will only be appointed where safety issues are identified. There are, however, no processes identified in the Bill to identify domestic violence or other problems such as poor or neglectful parenting practices, or mental health or drug and alcohol problems.

The Family Court will be subsidised for those few who meet the legal aid threshold, but will cost approximately $897 per half day for the rest. The costs of these processes will be prohibitive for many women. It will also mean that if a mother wants to progress the safety of her children, and the matter is not considered to meet the criteria for access to the Family Court, she will have to pay to keep her child safe. Furthermore, parents cannot file proceedings until they have been through mediation, so those on legal aid will have no access to legal advice until after the FDR stage.

The removal of the right to legal representation from FDR and the prehearing processes is a breach of human rights. Many people will not be able to complete Court documents or represent themselves without legal assistance for a variety of reasons, including stress, intimidation, language barriers, health, and confidence issues. Access to lawyers will be denied for most disputes over children, even where there is domestic violence, sexual abuse, and drug/alcohol issues. [..]

The Bill provides a separate pathway where abuse is identified, but this pathway is only available where there is “proof” of physical abuse. [..] Restricting mother’s access to the Court and forcing them into mediation will put women at risk and could force mothers to accept decisions that are not safe and/or in the children’ s interests.

The Bill holds the interests of the child as paramount [..] However, it does not state that the safety and enhancement of resilience in children who have been exposed to and/or may be the targets of violence is the most important aspect of children’s well-being. One of the five aspects is the child’s right to be brought up by both parents. Specifically, the principle also states that both parents are to be involved in decision-making about the child. If the parents cannot agree, then it’s off to mediation or counselling, or, rarely, a Court hearing.

Interestingly, Australia introduced shared parenting legislation in 2006. However, it was found that there was not enough judicial attention to the violence of the perpetrator and to the safety of the child. The Australian Parliament amended their law in 2011, strengthening the focus on child safety and domestic violence. The Australians realised that too many children were being exposed to violence; the last straw was an incident involving a five year-old girl who was thrown off a Melbourne bridge by her father, whose previous violence had been minimised and ignored by the Court.

So the legislation seems to copy unsuccessful Australian legislation that has been re-written.  It reduces the costs of the Family Court by putting out of the financial reach of many of those who most need it, and it forces those who’ve been experiencing violence into inappropriate mediation as it’s cheaper.

The templated submissions can give you a start on what to say: the long submission goes through the research evidence and history of why this Bill is a bad idea, the short submission has a beautiful punchiness.

Go ahead – submit and participate in democracy…

7 comments on “Save the Family Court”

  1. Afewknowthetruth 1

    Since my children were both victims of the utter incompetence of the Family Court and had their lives wrecked by the Family Court, I’d say good riddance to it.

  2. Jilly Bee 2

    My daughter has been a victim too – the past 5 years have been a living hell for her and us, her parents, but I don’t know how she would cope without the help of her Barrister, which will probably not happen after October. Her ex knows how to rort the system and deny access of her children to our family.

  3. It is an important issue and having seen the damage that can be done by break ups I believe that it is more important than many parts of the court system.

    The current law works pretty well. It is child focussed and the use of professionals means that those inclined to make a mess of things through feelings of hurt or revenge are mostly controlled.

    Sending these cases to compulsory mediation is the wrong thing to do. They will not have the necessary skills.

    Of course there will be a short term saving as the cost of professionals can be cut. But down the line the cost of screwed up lives will be considerable.

  4. RedBaronCV 4

    While I applaud your sentiments I really don’t think there is that much to save.
    The Court doesn’t really do anything, although in fairness it has been gutted by High Court decisions.
    It makes:
    – few protection orders compared to recorded assaults, about 3%,
    – has a minimal impact on child support – $1000 per family per annum,
    – arrangements for the care of the children are, as far as we know, rarely kept by “access” parents.
    Compliance with arrangements hasn’t really been studied but the data we have shows that the
    secondary caregiver doesn’t bother to keep court orders for long.
    – intervention focused on primary caregivers is absolutely excessive in many cases. These adults are good enough to care for the children and pay the bills but require “intervention” from around 20 adults telling them how to lead their lives. In some cases the number of “intervenors” can soar up towards the 80 level and many of the “intervenors” are doing little more than co-abusing.

    There is also a huge amount of provider capture with the ADR model and this has really blown the costs out. They are very well paid. This “touchy- feely gang” live on another planet. Their response to “access” parents not turning up is that “counselling will fix this”. Really? If someone isn’t going to turn up to see their kids then why on earth do they imagine they will turn up to counselling.
    Why do we spend $60m on something that isn’t enforced and the majority of offenders are male.

    At the moment all ADR does is give a bully access to their target market with no come back when they don’t keep the arrangements. It’s just a free shot at harrassing the caregiving parent.

    However, the answer is actually really simple. Any care arrangements made have to be kept. There is a financial penalty, $20 would be sufficent, when they are not. A small % of lapses would be allowed per annum. This would get rid of all the parents who have no intention of turning up on day one and leave only parents prepared to be responsible negotiating.

Links to post

Important links

Recent Comments

Recent Posts

1 2 3 8

  • Ministers must answer questions on IRD blowout
    The current and previous Revenue Ministers must front up and explain how the child support system had a budget blowout from $30 million to $210 million in just four years, says Labour’s Revenue spokesperson Clayton Cosgrove. “Peter Dunne was Revenue… ...
    4 hours ago
  • Curb stratospheric public CEO salaries
    A review of the way MPs’ pay is set should also look at ways to curb excessive rises in the salaries of public service chief executives, Labour Leader Andrew Little says. “Some of these CEOs have had stratospheric pay increases… ...
    8 hours ago
  • 50 cents? Makes no sense.
    The minimum wage rose by 50 cents this month from 14.25 to 14.75. While it’s a small step towards ensuring minimum workers get a fair share, it’s important to remember that real wages only rose 1.5% while productivity rose by… ...
    GreensBy Denise Roche MP
    1 day ago
  • The Serco corrections circus
    It should seem obvious to employers, private or public, that it’s important to do what you can to retain your best, most experienced staff. They make life easier for you because they’re effective, attentive and often respected by those around… ...
    GreensBy David Clendon MP
    1 day ago
  • Time for NZ to prohibit the killing of great apes
    That ban was widely hailed, and spurred efforts in other countries to get similar bans. However, apes are still being exploited, abused and killed, both in captivity and in the wild. Examples of cruelty, neglect and abuse abound. Apes are… ...
    GreensBy Mojo Mathers MP
    4 days ago
  • Auckland building consents: Tragic
    The only word to describe the latest building consent figures for Auckland is ‘tragic’, Labour’s Housing spokesperson Phil Twyford says. “Whatever the Government is doing to address the Auckland housing crisis, it is clearly not working. ...
    4 days ago
  • A whiff of a new biosecurity scandal?
    A pest which could create havoc for New Zealand’s horticulture and agriculture sector must be as much a focus for the Government as hunting out fruit flies, Labour’s Biosecurity spokesperson Damien O’Connor says. “While the Ministry for Primary Industries is… ...
    4 days ago
  • Government shrugs off health sector crisis
    Despite new evidence showing that cuts to health spending are costing lives the Government continues to deny the sector is struggling, Labour’s Health spokesperson Annette King says. “Health services in New Zealand are in crisis. ...
    5 days ago
  • Parata lowered the bar for failing charter school
    When Hekia Parata became aware that the Whangaruru charter school was experiencing major problems her first action was to drop standards by reducing the number of qualified teachers they had to employ, Labour’s Education spokesperson Chris Hipkins has revealed. “Hekia… ...
    5 days ago
  • National not being straight about the economy
    John Key and Bill English need to be straight with New Zealanders about the damage their failure to diversify the economy is doing, after new figures show export growth plunged due to a collapse in dairy exports, says Grant Robertson.… ...
    5 days ago
  • Mind the Gap
    This week the International Monetary Fund released a report on the wider economic value in closing the gender pay gap. When even the bastions of free-market economics start to raise concerns about gender pay gaps, we have to realise how… ...
    GreensBy Jan Logie MP
    5 days ago
  • Labour will hold National to parental leave promise
    Labour will hold National to its promise to increase the support given to new parents of premature, multiple birth and babies born with disabilities, Labour’s paid parental leave campaigner Sue Moroney says. "I am naturally disappointed that after battling for… ...
    6 days ago
  • It was all just pillar talk
    Steven Joyce’s confession that he can no longer guarantee a pillar-free design for the New Zealand International Convention Centre shows the Government has abandoned its dream of creating an ‘iconic’ ‘world-class’ structure, says Labour Economic Development spokesperson David Clark. “Steven… ...
    6 days ago
  • Australians move on offshore speculators
    John Key might want to have a quiet word with Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott about Canberra's just-announced crack down on offshore speculators when he visits New Zealand this week, Labour's Housing spokesperson Phil Twyford says."Tony Abbott's centre right government… ...
    6 days ago
  • Government at odds on overseas driver crashes
    National backbencher Jacqui Dean has spoken out about overseas driver crashes, putting herself at odds with Prime Minister John Key who is on record as saying it’s not a big issue, Labour’s Transport spokesperson Phil Twyford says. “I’m not surprised… ...
    6 days ago
  • Human Rights and the Palestine Crisis
    Last week I heard two Palestinians speak at Wellington events about the ongoing crisis in their country. Samar Sabawi spoke to a full house about the history of Palestine and gave us a lucid and disturbing account of the situation… ...
    GreensBy Catherine Delahunty MP
    6 days ago
  • Time to take real care of our kids
    An Amnesty International report has once again criticised New Zealand’s track record on looking after our kids, Labour’s Children’s spokesperson Jacinda Ardern says. The annual report, which looks at global human rights abuses highlights not only the fact that high… ...
    6 days ago
  • John Key wrong about Labour’s war vote
    John Key’s desperate claims that the former Labour Government didn’t put combat troop deployment to a Parliamentary vote are simply wrong, Labour’s Defence spokesperson Phil Goff says. “It was disgraceful that the Prime Minister ran rough shod over democracy and… ...
    6 days ago
  • Māori language bill needs work
     It is clear that the first draft of the Māori Language Bill was about structures and funding rather than the survival of te reo Māori, Labour’s Māori Development Spokesperson Nanaia Mahuta says.  “Labour is pleased that the Minister of Māori… ...
    6 days ago
  • Report proves troubled school shouldn’t have opened
    The long-awaited release of an Education Review Office report into Northland’s troubled Whangaruru charter school proves it should never have been approved in the first place, Labour’s Education spokesperson Chris Hipkins says. “This report identifies problems with absenteeism and disengaged… ...
    1 week ago
  • Manus Island and the New Zealand Government
    This week the Greens have participated in awareness activity about Manus Island, the refugee camp on an island in Papua New Guinea where Australia dumps asylum seekers. John Key says that he has every confidence in the Australian Government’s claim… ...
    GreensBy Catherine Delahunty MP
    2 weeks ago
  • Election Inquiry – Getting accessible voting on the agenda
    James Shaw has been doing a series of blogs on the Election Inquiry into last year’s general election.  I thought this was a great opportunity to raise an issue very dear to me – accessible voting. Last year’s general election… ...
    GreensBy Mojo Mathers MP
    2 weeks ago
  • RMA changes no solution to Christchurch housing
    Housing will continue to be a big issue in 2015. The latest Consumer Price Index, released last month, shows both good news and bad news on the housing front. After years of being the most expensive place to build a… ...
    GreensBy Eugenie Sage MP
    2 weeks ago
  • Saving kokako in South Auckland’s Hunua Ranges
    It is amazing that you can hear the song of the endangered North Island kokako in South Auckland’s Hunua Ranges, less than 50 kms from the central city. A heavy schedule of policy workshops at the Green Party’s Policy… ...
    GreensBy Eugenie Sage MP
    2 weeks ago
  • Let’s not turn a blind eye to human rights
    The Cricket World Cup has just opened in New Zealand, and it’s an opportunity for us to shine on the world stage. International sport can be a chance for us to build relationships with other countries, and examine what it… ...
    GreensBy Catherine Delahunty MP
    2 weeks ago
  • Its Just Not Cricket
    This week it was my privilege to work with Sri Lankan Tamil communities in this country and host Australian journalist and human rights advocate Trevor Grant. I knew a bit about Trevor from his biography but I didn’t know just… ...
    GreensBy Catherine Delahunty MP
    2 weeks ago
  • Time for NZ to #BeCrueltyFree
    The Government is about to progress the final stages of the Animal Welfare Amendment bill. This will be our last opportunity to get changes made to improve the bill to ensure a better outcome for animals. I have put forwards… ...
    GreensBy Mojo Mathers MP
    3 weeks ago
  • We want access!
    Access to buildings is a big issue for many New Zealanders. It looks like that, due to the hard work and persistence of people in the disability community, the Government may finally be starting to take access to buildings seriously.… ...
    GreensBy Mojo Mathers MP
    3 weeks ago
  • Greens call on Super Fund to divest from fossil fuels
    The Green Party today called on the New Zealand Superannuation Fund (the Fund) to divest from fossil fuels, starting immediately with coal. The call was accompanied with a new report, Making money from a climate catastrophe: The case for divesting… ...
    GreensBy Russel Norman MP
    3 weeks ago
  • Young Kiwis’ housing crisis
    Shelter is a fundamental human need along with food, water and clean air. All humans need adequate shelter; it’s a human right. Warm, safe, stable accommodation is critical for young people to be able learn and grow and just be.… ...
    GreensBy Jan Logie MP
    3 weeks ago

Removed at the request of The Daily Blog.
Public service advertisements by The Standard

Current CO2 level in the atmosphere