Family Justice System Review
Last week, the final report of the Independent Panel reviewing the 2014 Family Justice System changes was released.
The Panel’s report highlights considerable issues within the present Family Justice System including: pervasive delays, confusion and limitations around access to legal advice, inflexible and fragmented services, and a need for targeted counselling and culturally responsive services.
In one cohesive process, Collaborative Practice addresses these issues and provides families the opportunity to move themselves and their children through separation without pitting them against one another.
Access to justice should mean each whanau has access to the appropriate dispute resolution process that best suits that whanau’s needs. For many, this will be Collaborative Practice which enables families to access legal advice and any necessary wrap around professional services in one complete, cohesive process. Unfortunately, families reliant on the Legal Aid system do not have the choices of resolution options afforded to the rest of the community and are left having to use processes that may not be the best for them, their whanau and their circumstances.
The Panel has highlighted that the present narrow focus on mediation is inconsistent with the original policy intent that family dispute resolution be a flexible concept that draws on a range of dispute resolution models to help families reach agreement. The Association agrees that FDR must include a range of more flexible processes than mediation alone, including Collaborative Practice.
The Collaborative Law Association of NZ hopes the Government will recognise Collaborative Practice when considering changes to the Family Justice System and include it within the menu of choices for families.