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Vulnerable children at risk from Family Court fees increase

13 June 2012 New Zealand Association of Counsellors

Vulnerable children at risk from Family Court fees increase

New Family Court fees introduced by the government will hurt the most vulnerable families and could increase family violence, says the New Zealand Association of Counsellors (NZAC).

From July 1 a couple in a family dispute will have to pay $220 to help settle issues relating to child care arrangements.

Disagreements about dividing up assets will cost $700 to lodge and $906 for each half day hearing.

Previously these services were free.

NZAC president Jonathon Loan says the new fees have the potential to increase family violence.

“The fees will hit the most vulnerable, at-risk families particularly hard.

“Family Court funded counselling currently provides a forum for resolving a majority of disputes, but there are some families who can’t afford lawyers and who can’t settle their disputes in any way other than through the Family Court.

“Pricing this service out of their reach denies them access to what is a critical part of the family disputes resolution process. It denies them their fundamental right to have access to justice.

“Ultimately it could put their children at risk.”

Mr Loan says there is significant demand for marriage and relationship counselling and making it as accessible as possible can help to reduce a range of social and mental health issues, all of which carry significant long-term costs to society.

ENDS


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