An expert panel has been tasked to look into the changes with human-rights approach
Changes made in 2014 to the family justice system have only made matters worse and will be scrutinised by an independent panel of three experts, Justice Minister Andrew Little said.
“The 2014 changes were meant to help people resolve parenting disputes without having to go to court, but have in fact led to the opposite as there’s been a huge increase in the number of urgent ‘without notice’ applications which have to be put before a Family Court judge,” Little said.
“I am concerned that families and children are losing out as a result of not receiving adequate advice and support during this distressing time. The last Government removed access to lawyers in many cases and I’m concerned about how this and the other changes have impacted on access to justice,” he added.
The panel consists of former Chief Human Rights Commissioner Rosslyn Noonan and family law experts La Verne King and Chris Dellabarca. King is a director of Kaitaia firm Doubtless Bay Law, while Dellabarca is a partner at Wellington Family Law.
The panel will be supported by an expert reference group, which Little said will play an important task in the review. This includes giving the panel access to people with expertise across disciplines, including in law, mediation, child psychology, kaupapa Māori and family violence.
“I’ve directed the panel to take a human rights approach when considering improvements to ensure that welfare and best interests of the children are paramount when settling disputes about their care,” the justice minister said.
“A human rights approach will ensure everyone’s perspectives are considered, including survivors of family violence, and men who say they’re not being given the opportunity to do some of the parenting when relationships end. Talking with children who have experienced the Family Court system will also be vital for establishing how the system can work better for those who need it most,” he said.