Justice Minister Kiri Allan announces a new legislation aimed at tackling delays in the family justice system

Justice Minister Kiri Allan announces a new legislation aimed at tackling delays in the family justice system

According to Justice Minister Kiri Allan, new legislation designed to address delays in the family justice system will help enhance the wellbeing of thousands of children involved in Family Court conflicts each year.

The Family Court (Family Court Associate) Legislation Bill will result in the employment of several Family Court Associates across the nation to work on cases, mainly in the early stages, allowing them to move through the Court more rapidly.

“The work of the Family Court is incredibly important,” Kiri Allan said.

“It deals with a diverse set of issues, from the care and protection of children, family violence, to divorce and relationship property. We know that delays in the Family Court keep whānau and tamariki in stressful and uncertain situations.

“Ensuring the faster resolution of cases will see far better outcomes for the estimated 16,000 children impacted by Family Court disputes each year.

“We want Family Court judges to be able to concentrate on progressing cases, which can be hugely traumatic for children, through the court instead of time-consuming administrative matters, and these roles will help them do just that.”

One of the proposals in the 2019 report Te Korowai Ture -Whnau served as the foundation for the Family Court (Family Court Associate) Legislation Bill. An independent panel that was chosen by the then-minister of justice to study the family justice system’s 2014 reforms published the report. The panel concluded that delays in the Family Court were a result of the judges’ heavy administrative burden.

Budget 21 gave $15 million over four years to develop the Family Court Associate roles.

“Any delays in court proceedings are counter to a child’s best interests. This investment is about placing the welfare of children, often at their most vulnerable, at the centre of what is a hugely sensitive process,” Kiri Allan said.

Based on the Panel’s recommendations, the Government launched its first phase of reform in 2020 with the goal of better assisting families and whnau through the family justice system..

That included:

  • restoring the right to legal representation at the start of a case in the Family Court, and allowing parties to those proceedings, where eligible, to access legal aid;
  • the establishment of Kaiārahi – Family Court Navigators and the development of better information resources to help parents and whānau navigate the system;
  • an increase to remuneration for lawyers for children to incentivise the retention of skilled practitioners; and
  • the Family Court (Supporting Children in Court) Bill, focused on enhancing children’s participation in proceedings that affect them.

At the Select Committee stage, the public will have the chance to voice their opinions on the Family Court (Family Court Associate) Legislation Bill.

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