Access to lawyers and family court reforms
Wed 02 Mar 2016
Radio New Zealand has reported that many people going through to legal proceedings relating to the care of children are still using lawyers. ...
Radio New Zealand has reported that many people going through to legal proceedings relating to the care of children are still using lawyers. This is despite 2013 family court reforms which prevent parties from being represented by lawyers except in particular circumstances.
Couples in child custody disputes are now not allowed to be represented by a lawyer unless they file a 'without notice' application, which are usually prompted by allegations of violence either against a child or partner.
Radio New Zealand reported that Principal Family Court Judge Laurence Ryan said 86% of Care of Children Act applications now commence by way of a without notice application. Before the reforms, rates used to be slightly below 50%.
Radio New Zealand also reported Law Society family law representative Allan Cooke as saying the situation the reforms had created was unfair: "We have a 'if you have money you can get access to a lawyer and you can get all the assistance you need, if you don't have sufficient funds you can't and you have to go through the FLAS [Family Legal Advice Service] system, which is quite limited in the sense of what work can be done by the lawyer.'"
An evaluation of the family court reforms is currently being carried out by University of Otago Law Professor Mark Henaghan. For more information see the previous NZFVC news story Report proposes way to evaluate family court reforms (July 2015).