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Chester Borrows

4 December, 2012

Family Court reform bill passes first reading

A bill to modernise the family justice system and make it more accessible to those who need it most has passed its first reading in Parliament today.

Associate Justice Minister Chester Borrows says the Family Court Proceedings Reform Bill is the first step towards addressing the serious concerns about the Court raised by court users including the public, judges, lawyers and counsellors.

“Today is an important milestone towards creating a modern and accessible family justice system that is more focused on the needs of children and vulnerable people who most need its protection.

“Our changes will refocus the Family Court on resolving disputes that need a judicial decision.  We want to encourage faster, less adversarial resolution of simple family issues outside court and empower judges to focus on the most serious cases,” says Mr Borrows.

Key features of the Family Court reforms are:

  • A new Family Dispute Resolution (FDR) service to help parents and families settle disputes about their children and get on with their lives more quickly.
  • Expansion of the successful Parenting through Separation course.
  • Simplified and streamlined court processes, for example, Care of Children applications will follow one of three new court ‘tracks,’ depending on the complexity and urgency of the case.
  • Improved information and easy-to-use forms to help people navigate the court system independently in simple matters.
  • Increasing the maximum penalty for breaching a protection order from two years to three years imprisonment.
  • Improving stopping domestic violence treatment programmes.
  • Extending the definition of domestic violence in the Domestic Violence Act to include ‘economic abuse’.

“Our changes will make the Family Court a more efficient and effective part of the wider justice system.

“I encourage anyone with an interest in the Family Court to have their say on the changes by making a submission to the Justice and Electoral Committee that will consider the bill,” says Mr Borrows.

More information about the Family Court reform is available at www.justice.govt.nz.

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