Family Courts enter the digital age

by Sol Dolor16 Aug 2017
Rule changes in the Family Courts will bring several processes of the courts into the digital age starting September 1.

Family Proceedings Amendment Rules 2017, which amend the Family Proceedings Rules 1981, and Family Court Amendment Rules 2017, which amend the Family Court Rules 2002, provide for several processes of the Family Courts to be electronically conducted. The Children, Young Persons, and Their Families Amendment Rules 2017, which amend the Children, Young Persons, and Their Families Rules 1989, and the Domestic Violence Amendment Rules 2017, which amend the Domestic Violence Rules 1996, also repeat the changes made by the other amendment rules, the Law Society said.

The amendment rules, which were made by Order in Council, come into force on 1 September.

Under the Family Proceedings Amendment Rules 2017, lawyers will be able to accept service of documents by any electronic means. A person authorised by the secretary of justice, an officer or employee of a corporation authorised by the secretary, or a police employee authorised by the commissioner of police, will be able to effect personal service.

The rule changes also now permit the substitute service of documents to a person via social media. Parties with no lawyer acting for them can now be served by transmitting the order to the party’s last known electronic address.

Under the Family Court Amendment Rules 2017, lawyers are allowed to accept service of documents via electronic means. It also echoes rules set by the Family Proceedings Amendment Rules 2017, defining who are authorised to serve documents. In addition, it enables judges to authenticate electronic documents.

The Family Court Amendment Rules 2017 also reflects changes made in the Children, Young Persons, and Their Families (Advocacy, Workforce, and Age Settings) Amendment Act 2016, which disallows social workers to be party to proceedings under the Oranga Tamariki Act 1989, in their capacity as a social worker.

The amendment rules also allows for serving documents via social media. It also allows the serving of documents to people without a lawyer acting for them by sending the documents to the last known electronic address.

According to the Law Society, the Family Courts can classify proceedings on the without-notice track as complex cases, thereby allowing them to be individually managed and allowing for a case management conference to be convened. A judge is also enabled to reclassify a case as a standard-track case following an interim order while the case is on the without-notice track. A judge is also enabled to order parties to attend family dispute resolution while a case is on the without-notice track.


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