Wilson Ignores Virtually All Submissions
The Government has made virtually no changes to the most controversial aspects of the Matrimonial Property Amendment Bill, National Justice spokesman Tony Ryall said today.
"Professor Wilson has arrogantly ignored nearly every piece of advice submitters gave the Government.
"If passed, this Bill will doom thousands of New Zealanders wanting out of relationships to languish in the clogged family courts. This will cost men and women dearly in legal bills," Mr Ryall said.
The Justice and Electoral Select Committee Report and Minority Report on the Matrimonial Property Bill and Supplementary Order Paper No 25 were tabled in Parliament today.
"Judges, experienced practitioners up and down the country, family organisations and community groups all counselled against Professor Wilson's proposals. New Zealanders had one victory in getting 'spouse', 'husband', 'wife' and 'marriage' reinserted into the legislation. But the most controversial aspects remain unchanged.
"Even the Principal Family Court Judge Mahony pleaded for guidance saying judges will end up making law which Parliament should be making.
"Courts will have discretion to vary the 50/50 split rule - taking away certainty. Judges are being asked to predict the future. Individual judges will make different assessments, giving different results. The Government has given no thought to what happens if judges guess wrongly.
"More cases will clog the family courts. Because the new legislation gives so much discretion to judges, the changes will see up to 80% of cases going before the courts, compared with 10% now.
"There are loose definitions in key parts of the legislation. In the end, as Judge Mahony said in his submission, the Courts will be making the rules that Parliament should be making.
"The $60,000 budgeted to educate people on the impact these changes will have on their lives is less than the legal costs of one substantial matrimonial dispute. The Government didn't even want the publicity of a select committee report until Opposition parties forced it.
"The Government has changed the implementation date of the legislation to 1 February 2002. In reality, this will mean that no cases will be settled before the election. Professor Wilson doesn't even have the courage of her convictions.
"The Government's proposals are not fair. There are problems that need addressing but equal division and certainty has for the most part delivered a fair split for couples. As it stands, this legislation will open a Pandora's Box that will be difficult to put the lid back on," Mr Ryall said.
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