Changes to the Family Court resulting from the Government's reforms came into effect on 31 March 2014. These include requiring most parents to attend the new Family Dispute Resolution service, restricting access to legal representation in many cases and replacing the 'Bristol clauses', which have required judges to consider a list of factors relating to the use of violence against the other parent or a child before approving unsupervised contact between the allegedly violent parent and their children.
FAQs on the changes have been provided by the Ministry of Justice.
Background information on the reforms is available on the Ministry of Justice website.
Speaking at the Arbitrators’ and Mediators’ Institute of New Zealand (AMINZ) Breakfast, Justice Minister Judith Collins said, "This Government’s reforms empower people to resolve their parenting matters outside court and minimise the stress children often face when their parents separate. We’re ensuring the Court focuses on those cases that most need judicial expertise, especially those cases involving domestic violence."
In the NZ Herald earlier in 2014, Bryan Gould commented, "The current orthodoxy is that the parties to a relationship breakdown should be encouraged to behave as much as possible like a 'normal' family, especially where children are involved. Shared parenting is the order of the day. But this is clearly not possible in cases of physical and sexual abuse - and it is no more appropriate in cases where the reason for the breakdown is the psychological abuse of one party by the other. ... The Family Court's preference for sending cases to mediation is meat and drink to the abuser. It is a chance to dominate the victim all over again, to recreate in her that sense that she cannot stand up for herself and that her abuser will always win. The legal process that should be protecting her from the abuser she has escaped from seems intent on thrusting her (and often her children) back into his control."
Update: The Ministry of Justice has awarded agencies Family Works and FairWay Resolution Ltd contracts to coordinate mediation between separating couples throughout the country.
Submitted on Wed, 2014-03-26 11:35