Justice Minister Judith Collins says the passing of The Family Court Proceedings Reform Bill’s third reading in Parliament today marks a significant milestone for New Zealand’s justice system.
“Our reforms put the needs of children and vulnerable people first to ensure the Family Court focuses on those who need it most,” Ms Collins says.
“We’re supporting people to resolve care of children matters out of court where possible, to free up the court to focus on more serious cases, and the needs of the most vulnerable.
“We’re also strengthening the response to domestic violence by raising the maximum penalty for breaching a protection order from two years to three years imprisonment.”
Ms Collins says the reforms will provide much needed clarity to court processes and rules – users will have more certainty and it will be easier for them to understand and navigate the court system.
A new Family Dispute Resolution (FDR) service will be introduced to support those who need help to solve their parenting and guardianship disputes out-of-court, where possible.
“This will reduce the stress on children and families by avoiding the conflict, delays and expense that court processes can involve,” Ms Collins says.
“Most parents resolve these issues without Family Court assistance. However, for those who are not able to, both FDR and expansion of the Parenting Through Separation programme will provide expert support and mediation to help them make decisions for their children and themselves.
“If we can keep people out of the Family Court, except when they should be in the Family Court, there will be more resource for serious and urgent cases.”