by Metiria Turei
I’m pretty concerned at the announcement of a major review of the Family Court.
While I acknowledge that the court is not perfect, I’m sceptical that this review will be about identifying areas where it can be improved. It seems to be much more about identifying areas from which to cut.
Any review of the Family Court must ensure that certain services to protect children and non-negotiable. To quote Caroline Hannan from the family law section of the Law Society, all children who find themselves the subject of court proceedings are vulnerable.
The Greens have argued in the past that every child affected by Family Court action should have guaranteed access to counselling services. We need to be open to ways in which we can better look after children, not just ways to cut costs. Guaranteed counselling for kids is a good example of where things could be improved.
It’s also vital that the court continues to offer “lawyer for child” services, where a lawyer is appointed to represent the best interests of a child in a family dispute. Often, the best interests of the child will be different from the best interests of either parent, and it’s very important that this independent advocacy service is available. The suggestion that parents should start paying for this service would undermine the important independent advocacy role, and could lead to adverse outcomes for vulnerable kids.
In any review of the Family Court, there must be some bottom lines. Continued access to counselling, mediation, and support services should be non-negotiable, because they are absolutely key to ensuring that family court decisions and settlements are fair and durable.