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Summary of submissions on family violence legislative review released

*From the New Zealand Family Violence Clearinghouse*

Justice Minister Amy Adams has released a summary of the almost 500 submissions made on the family violence legislative review.

The summary of submissions describes the approximate number of submissions which agreed or disagreed with various proposals, and some of the reasons and suggestions put forward.

Ms Adams' media release said that "overall, people who had their say were broadly supportive of the ideas for potential change, and the consultation confirmed that the discussion document identified the key issues."

Ms Adams said topics that received the most comments were:

  • "updating the definition of domestic violence
  • making protection orders more accessible and effective
  • removing barriers to safety faced by specific population groups
  • improving information sharing in family violence cases
  • creating an additional pathway for victims, perpetrators and whānau who want help to stop violence, but don’t want to go to court."

Ms Adams said decisions about specific proposals for law changes will be announced in upcoming months, with a view to introducing a Bill to Parliament later in 2016.

Background information on the legislative review is available in the previous NZFVC news storyReview of family violence laws: Government discussion document released (August 2015).

Related information

Radio New Zealand has reported that many people going through to legal proceedings relating to the care of children are still using lawyers. This is despite 2013 family court reforms which prevent parties from being represented by lawyers except in particular circumstances.

Couples in child custody disputes are now not allowed to be represented by a lawyer unless they file a 'without notice' application, which are usually prompted by allegations of violence either against a child or partner.

Radio New Zealand reported that Principal Family Court Judge Laurence Ryan said 86% of Care of Children Act applications now commence by way of a without notice application. Before the reforms, rates used to be slightly below 50%.

Radio New Zealand reported Law Society family law representative Allan Cooke as saying the situation the reforms had created was unfair: "We have a 'if you have money you can get access to a lawyer and you can get all the assistance you need, if you don't have sufficient funds you can't and you have to go through the FLAS [Family Legal Advice Service] system, which is quite limited in the sense of what work can be done by the lawyer.'"

An evaluation of the family court reforms is currently being carried out by University of Otago Law Professor Mark Henaghan. For more information see the previous NZFVC news storyReport proposes way to evaluate family court reforms (July 2015).