Family justice system independent report welcomed

by Sol Dolor22 Jun 2019

The comprehensive review of the 2014 reforms to the family justice system has been welcomed by Justice Minister Andrew Little and e Hunga Rōia Māori o Aotearoa – The Māori Law Society.

“It’s clear that the National Party’s 2014 reforms haven’t worked as intended. The recommendations provided by this report are extensive and require a meaningful response from the Government in due course,” Little said. “I thank the panel for their considered recommendations and have tasked officials with developing a workable program for change. I expect to receive advice from them by the end of the year.”

The 142-page report prepared by an independent panel has 70 recommendations, key among which is the establishment of a family justice service – Te Korowai Ture ā-Whānau. The new service is suggested to be comprised of the Ministry of Justice, the Family Court, Parenting Through Separation (PTS) and Family Dispute Resolution (FDR) providers, lawyers, iwi and kaupapa Māori organisations, social services and community agencies, the New Zealand Law Society said.

The report examined the changes made to the system in 2014, which included introducing family dispute resolution and removing lawyers from the early stages of select Family Court proceedings.

“These changes were meant to make things easier for families at a difficult time, but they have had the opposite effect. Cases are taking longer to resolve and many family members involved in the court processes say they are not well-supported,” Littled said. “I am also keen to give close consideration to the recommendations about the need for more culturally sensitive approaches.”

Adopt all recommendations

The New Zealand Law Society has urged the government to adopt all recommendations made by the panel in its report, saying that it strongly believes that adoption of the suggestions as a package will immediately benefit all families who need access to family justice services.

“It is also pleasing to see some of the recommendations are directed at making the family justice system more responsive and appropriate for Māori,” said Caroline Hickman of the Law Society.

The New Zealand Law Society’s Family Law Section deputy chair said that more Family Court Judges and adding senior family court registrars and family justice service coordinators “will go a long was to reduce the significant current delays in the Family Court.”

The Law Society also highlighted the importance of counselling and mediation to assist parents in resolving disputes without access to the system. It also said that it is great to see free counselling for children gaining traction.

The comprehensive review of the 2014 reforms to the family justice system has been welcomed by Justice Minister Andrew Little and e Hunga Rōia Māori o Aotearoa – The Māori Law Society.

“It’s clear that the National Party’s 2014 reforms haven’t worked as intended. The recommendations provided by this report are extensive and require a meaningful response from the Government in due course,” Little said. “I thank the panel for their considered recommendations and have tasked officials with developing a workable program for change. I expect to receive advice from them by the end of the year.”

The 142-page report prepared by an independent panel has 70 recommendations, key among which is the establishment of a family justice service – Te Korowai Ture ā-Whānau. The new service is suggested to be comprised of the Ministry of Justice, the Family Court, Parenting Through Separation (PTS) and Family Dispute Resolution (FDR) providers, lawyers, iwi and kaupapa Māori organisations, social services and community agencies, the New Zealand Law Society said.

The report examined the changes made to the system in 2014, which included introducing family dispute resolution and removing lawyers from the early stages of select Family Court proceedings.

“These changes were meant to make things easier for families at a difficult time, but they have had the opposite effect. Cases are taking longer to resolve and many family members involved in the court processes say they are not well-supported,” Littled said. “I am also keen to give close consideration to the recommendations about the need for more culturally sensitive approaches.”

Adopt all recommendations

The New Zealand Law Society has urged the government to adopt all recommendations made by the panel in its report, saying that it strongly believes that adoption of the suggestions as a package will immediately benefit all families who need access to family justice services.

“It is also pleasing to see some of the recommendations are directed at making the family justice system more responsive and appropriate for Māori,” said Caroline Hickman of the Law Society.

The New Zealand Law Society’s Family Law Section deputy chair said that more Family Court Judges and adding senior family court registrars and family justice service coordinators “will go a long was to reduce the significant current delays in the Family Court.”

The Law Society also highlighted the importance of counselling and mediation to assist parents in resolving disputes without access to the system. It also said that it is great to see free counselling for children gaining traction.

Important to Māori

The Māori Law Society said that the principal recommendation of a family justice service is important to Māori, “who have been significantly affected by the 2014 reforms and who would benefit from the cohesive, collaborative, and cost-effective approach that Te Korowai proposes,” according to The New Zealand Law Society.

The Māori Law Society also particularly supports the recommendations that give Māori better access to justice in the system.

“Of note, and among the 70 recommendations made by the panel, the specific reference to Te Tiriti o Waitangi within family court legislation, and increasing exposure, and understanding of Family Court judges to tikanga Māori programmes, and processes,” the society said.

“Understanding tikanga Māori is crucial to understanding Te Ao Māori, Māori whānau and children who are overrepresented in the family justice system,” says Mānia Hope, family law sector representative for Te Hunga Rōia Māori,” it said. “Te Hunga Rōia Māori supports all of the ‘Te Ao Māori’ recommendations, including appointing more Māori judges to the Family Court bench and requiring all Family Court judges to attend tikanga Māori programs. The panel’s recommendation to diversify the experience and cultural understandings of the Family Court judiciary will benefit all Family Court users.”

The Māori Law Society said that the principal recommendation of a family justice service is important to Māori, “who have been significantly affected by the 2014 reforms and who would benefit from the cohesive, collaborative, and cost-effective approach that Te Korowai proposes,” according to The New Zealand Law Society.

The Māori Law Society also particularly supports the recommendations that give Māori better access to justice in the system.

“Of note, and among the 70 recommendations made by the panel, the specific reference to Te Tiriti o Waitangi within family court legislation, and increasing exposure, and understanding of Family Court judges to tikanga Māori programmes, and processes,” the society said.

“Understanding tikanga Māori is crucial to understanding Te Ao Māori, Māori whānau and children who are overrepresented in the family justice system,” says Mānia Hope, family law sector representative for Te Hunga Rōia Māori,” it said. “Te Hunga Rōia Māori supports all of the ‘Te Ao Māori’ recommendations, including appointing more Māori judges to the Family Court bench and requiring all Family Court judges to attend tikanga Māori programs. The panel’s recommendation to diversify the experience and cultural understandings of the Family Court judiciary will benefit all Family Court users.”