Stuff.co.nz 30 March 2014
When Carl*, a businessman in his 50s, went to the Family Court a decade ago to try to improve his access to his two young children, it was a nightmare.
“It’s incredibly draining. You’ve been through a marriage separation, your whole family life is ripped apart, your personal wealth is ripped apart, and then you’re fighting over being able to see your children.”
If the family law reforms that kick in tomorrow match the optimistic predictions of the Justice Department, there will soon be fewer Carls suffering while the blunt instruments of law crash around the delicate interiors of family life.
Instead, disputatious couples will be prodded into sorting things out between themselves, with a mix of stick (mandatory “parenting through separation” classes and “family dispute resolution” sessions before you can file papers to the Family Court, less access to legal aid) and carrot (some state funding for the dispute resolution and parenting classes).
FAMILY LAW REFORM: SOME OF THE CHANGES
Before filing papers over disputed childcare arrangements parents MUST attend a free “parenting through separation” course (previously not mandatory).
Before filing papers parents must attend Family Dispute Resolution (FDR) sessions (previously not mandatory, and known as “mediation”).
FDR to be provided by a wider range of mediators and counsellors (previously only lawyers) .
FDR costs $897, or free if you meet certain criteria (previously free to all).
Lawyers not involved in FDR (previously a mediation might involve two parents, each with a lawyer, plus another “lawyer for child”).
Parents to contribute toward cost of “lawyer for child” if case actually goes to court (previously free).
The reforms will have no impact on matters including adoption, care and protection, child abduction, mental health, paternity, separation and divorce applications.