An Auckland barrister and mediator has been appointed as the new chair of the Family Law Section for the New Zealand Law Society.
Kirsty Swadling has a rich and diverse legal background and has been practising law for about 30 years.
Ms Swadling is based at Ponsonby Chambers and takes over the role from Nelson based barrister, Michelle Duggan.
Kirsty Swadling specialises in family law but has also practised in civil litigation, criminal and general practice areas including wills, trusts, conveyancing and commercial law, during her long career.
She says many of those areas of law have crossed over into her family law work.
“Absolutely, when you’re dealing with relationship property. A lot of the partners and spouses who are breaking up have family trusts so having an understanding of trust law for example and the issues involved is very important,” she says.
On reflection, Ms Swadling says that her work in family law provides her with the opportunity to both deal with at times difficult legal issues and also help families who are going through really tough legal times.
"Often family lawyers are dealing with legal arguments about significant property matters but at the same time helping parents negotiate appropriate parenting arrangements for their children. I’m always looking for better ways of doing things so I became involved in mediation and collaborative law, as well as the litigation side of my practice. I get a great deal of satisfaction when I’m able to settle matters without having to go to court to do it,” she says.
Ms Swadling says as chair of the Family Law Section, she wants to continue the Section's leadership in engaging over issues of reform and liaising with the judiciary and government departments to ensure issues relating to the practice of family law are adequately addressed. A top priority for her is to provide good support to the Section members. She would also like to consider ways of promoting an awareness of what family lawyers do in their daily work to the general public.
"Family lawyers are frequently undervalued. In fact they play an important role in assisting parties to resolve disputes that can involve significant value both financially and emotionally. Wouldn't it be good to have this better recognised," she says.
She says the current review of the Property (Relationships) Act 1976 by the Law Commission is a huge issue and there will be a lot of work done in preparing submissions for this important piece of legislation.
While Kirsty Swadling is the new chair of the Family Law Section, the deputy chair is Wellington based family lawyer, Rachael Dewar.