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Turner cautiously optimistic about Family Court

Media statement
For immediate release
Friday, 15 September 2006

Turner cautiously optimistic about changes in Family Court

United Future deputy leader Judy Turner is “cautiously optimistic” over the new rules for the Family Court announced today.

The Family Court will take a more hands-on role in managing the process of a case through its initial stages, not just making the final decision.

Instead of a single, final formal hearing after a lengthy build-up of procedural and semi-judicial appearances, the new judge-led process will begin with a preliminary hearing within 14 days of a judge's decision to enter the case into the process.

The same judge then presides over the entire process, directing what issues are to be addressed, in what way it should proceed, and cutting out many irrelevant affidavits and witness summons.

“I am happy to see any changes that will make the system less adversarial,” said Mrs Turner.

“One of the major flaws in the existing structure of the Family Court process is that it pits one parent against another, both of whom feel they have to prove why the other is not fit to be a parent.

“I am also glad to see that the Court has recognised that many of its failings are due to the length of time a case can run for, particularly as one parent has the ability to stall the process thus influencing the final outcome of the case.

“Many parents, often fathers, are left waiting years for a decision on the day-to-day care arrangements of their children. This can determine the outcome of many cases as the Court is often reluctant to move the day-to-day care arrangements of the child for fear of breaking up any existing physical stability that child experiences due to living in one place.

“While I am pleased to see these changes, it must be noted that this is only a first step. There are still fundamental flaws in the Family Court system that will not be addressed by this trial.

“Such things as the concept of the primary caregiver, perceptions of bias against fathers, and the power of lawyers and judges to effect a case are all things that still need to be looked at,” concluded Mrs Turner.

The new programme will take effect as a two-year trial in the Auckland, Tauranga, Rotorua, Palmerston North, Wellington and Dunedin Family Courts.


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