The New Zealand Law Society welcomes the announcement of an independent panel to review the 2014 changes to the Family Court.
“The panel has been given until May 2019 to report to the Minister of Justice with its recommendations and this should allow time for adequate consultation. It is pleasing to see two senior family lawyers on the panel and the involvement of a third panel member with a human rights background,” says the chair of the Law Society’s Family Law Section, Kirsty Swadling.
“The operation of our Family Court system involves many different rights and responsibilities, which means the panel needs to carry out a careful and considered balancing exercise. What is clear is that change is needed to benefit the interests of parents, caregivers and children who are the subject of Family Court proceedings.”
Ms Swadling says it appears that the review will address all of the changes made in 2014 to parenting and guardianship matters in the Care of Children Act.
“This is quite broad and seems to indicate that the review will cover more than the particular issues identified in the terms of reference. This means it will allow examination and hopefully simplification of the tracks in the current family justice system so that there are fewer events.
“I also expect that the roles of lawyer for child and lawyer to assist will come within the review. Given the widespread discussion of these recently, it will be good to be able to have a practical conversation on the issues.”
Ms Swadling says the Law Society will fully participate in the consultation and there are many areas within the terms of reference on which it will make submissions.
“There are other matters which could fall outside the scope of the terms of reference, but we are encouraged that the panel is able to recommend further work on these. There are many other issues in the family justice system that may fall outside the scope but would benefit from review.
“It is important to point out that whatever changes may come about from the review, New Zealand’s family justice system will only work if it is sustainable and supported with sufficient funding.”