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Family Law Section responding to FARE

For immediate use 29 January 2001


Media release from the Family Law Section, New Zealand Law Society, responding to Families Apart Require Equality (FARE)

“Lawyers are not scared of standing up for children, their parents and the Family Court system that protects their privacy and dignity.
“The legal profession has no vested interest in the confidentiality of Family Court proceedings. Confidentiality does not protect lawyers and judges.
“Family Court litigation is carried out in private to protect the ordinary men, women and children who use the system to resolve their family problems.
“There is, in general, no public interest in knowing the personal facts of individual cases.
“Wholesale lifting of the veil of confidentiality will undermine the ability of the court system to help resolve family disputes. The lack of privacy will deter many from using the court, inhibit the giving of evidence and obstruct the aims of settling disputes with the least possible acrimony.
“It is therefore wrong to contend that opening the Family Court to the public will enhance the quality of dispute resolution.
“The real issue raised by groups such as Families Apart Require Equality (FARE) is the principles courts apply when asked to decide family law cases.
“Those legal principles are set by statute made by Parliament and the judgments which provide guidance in interpreting and applying Parliament’s intentions. Those judgments are reported publicly with appropriate protection for individual privacy.
“The principles set down by Parliament and by the courts in reported cases can be and are subject to public debate. They will come under extensive scrutiny with the current review of the Guardianship Act, which deals with the legal relationship of children with their parents.
“It is vital that any public debate of these principles should be properly informed.
“The starting point of the current law is that the welfare of children is the first and paramount consideration.
“The Family Court recognises that in most cases that goal is best achieved by children having both their parents involved in their lives. However, there are exceptional cases when, in the child’s interests, both the parents could not positively share in the children’s lives. In other cases, difficult decisions have to be made about the extent to which, in the child’s interest, each parent has a role in the child’s upbringing.
“Family lawyers individually represent mothers, fathers, children and other significant persons in children’s lives. As a profession, lawyers have no particular axe to grind for any one group of litigants.
“Lawyers and other professionals involved in the Family Court system have the single duty of seeing the welfare of children placed first in the resolution of family disputes. The often difficult issues are best resolved in a non-adversarial manner, without the distracting and destructive glare of publicity.”

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