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Family Court Reform Proceeds

Family Court reforms will either make it easier to resolve disputes or make dispute resolution too expensive to access, depending on which political party you listen to.

Associate Justice Minister Chester Borrows said in the first reading of the Family Court Proceedings Reform Bill that the bill would modernise the Family Courts and make them more accessible.

Borrows said the bill was the biggest changes to the court since they were set up in 1981 and they addressed wide spread concern the Family Court was not able to focus on the most serious cases, while costs had escalated despite the level of work remaining constant.

The changes would ensure there was more support for people to resolve disputes out of court and before proceedings begin, Borrows said.

Charles Chauvel said he had some real problems with the legislation and these had been well laid out by groups such as the family court section of the Law Society.

While there was much that was laudable about the families dispute resolution service, there was a fee to get through the door which would make it unaffordable for many.

The fact a fee had to be paid before accessing the service, which had to be gone through before any court proceedings could begin, would mean vulnerable people would be deterred from using the Family Court.

Former justice minister Phil Goff said it appeared the bill’s main purpose was to cut costs.

The bill was sent to the Justice and Electoral Committee for consideration by 68 to 52 with National, NZ First, ACT and United Future supporting.

Earlier the Callaghan Innovation Bill (formerly the Advanced Technology Institute Bill) passed its first reading by 105 to 15 with the Greens and Mana opposed.

The Greens and Mana also opposed the Appropriation (2011/12 Financial Review) Bill.

This somewhat surprised Speaker Lockwood Smith who pointed out it was a procedural motion taken without debate to allow MPs to debate the financial reviews of Crown entities at a later date, despite this the Greens insisted their opposition to the move be recorded.

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