Submissions open on Family Court Legislation Bill

Tue 15 Dec 2020

Submissions are open on the Family Court (Supporting Children In Court) Legislation Bill. The deadline to make a submission is 28 February 2021.

The Government introduced the Family Court (Supporting Children in Court) Legislation Bill on 6 August 2020. This is an omnibus bill that would amend the Care of Children Act 2004 and the Family Dispute Resolution Act 2013. The bill has a number of provisions related to family violence and child custody, taking into account the rights of the child.

The Bill has been referred to the Justice Committee who is calling for submissions. 

The Justice Committee press release states:

"This bill aims to enhance child wellbeing in care-of-children proceeding. It would do so by making changes to court processes, and by requiring lawyers to take steps to resolve disputes by promoting conciliation."

The Committee also states:

"The changes would reinforce existing expectations about giving emphasis to the view of the child, giving better effect to children’s rights under the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child.

The bill proposes to set expectations that children will be provided with opportunities to make inputs on decisions relating to their care. It would also require family violence to be taken into account for all decisions relating to the care of a child.

The bill also proposes to set new expectations for the appointment of lawyers representing children in the family court. The court would have to consider a lawyer’s personality, cultural background, training, and experience when appointing a lawyer to represent a child. The bill would also require a lawyer representing a child to explain the proceedings to the child in a manner that the child is able understand, when possible."

Submissions can be made online until 28 February 2021.

Update: The Justice Committee has submitted their final report on the bill recommending by majority, that it be passed with amendments. The bill received Royal Assent in August 2021. The date the bill will come into effect is either a date appointed by the Governor-General by Order in Councilor a date that is 2 years after the date on which the Act receives the Royal assent (see Clause 2 of the legislation).

More information

When the Bill was introduced, former Minister of Justice Andrew Little said the Bill was a result of the final report of the Independent Panel examining the 2014 family justice reforms, Te Korowai Ture ā-Whānau (2019).

At the first reading of the Bill, new Justice Minister Kris Faafoi said:

"This Government is committed to continuing to strengthen the Family Court process, and this bill forms part of a long-term programme of change focused on improving access to justice for children, parents, and whānau who are involved in disputes over the care of children. The bill is intended to enhance child wellbeing and care of children cases both directly and by assisting parents to resolve parenting disputes. It will enhance children's participation in proceedings that affect them and help to ensure that children feel supported and informed as they move through the Family Court process. It will also extend lawyers' duties in the care of children proceedings, as well as reinforcing expectations that people should be protected from family violence. In fact, the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child says that children's participation in decisions that affect them is a fundamental right and this bill will effect that."

Related news

Jennifer Braithwaite has been awarded the inaugural Borrin Foundation Justice Fellowship to research children and young people’s access to justice in Aotearoa New Zealand. Her research will involve focus groups with children and key informant interviews with people working with children including lawyers for the child, youth advocates, the community law sector, community organisations working with and advocating for children and young people, and academics. 

The Social Services and Community Committee is calling for submissions on Supplementary Order Paper (SOP) 538 related to the Child Support Amendment Bill. The call for submissions states: "The SOP contains proposed amendments to repeal incremental penalties and simplify the rules for writing off child support penalties." Submissions are only open on the SOP. A closing date for submissions has not yet been set. 

Related media

Dames say their concerns ignored by top Family Court judge, RNZ, 12.11.2021

Feeling belittled and marginalised in the Family Court, Newsroom, 30.08.2021

Sexual violence strategy: ‘Fighting four decades of status quo’, Newsroom, 03.12.2020

Violence Against Women and Children in Aotearoa New Zealand w/ Dr. Debbie Hager, 95bFM, 12.10.2020

'I've thought about running away': The dilemma for abused mums in the Family Court, Stuff, 01.10.2020

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