3 Jul 2018

Head of the Family Court retires from the bench

2:04 pm on 3 July 2018

The country's principal family court judge will retire next month after 22 years on the bench.

Judge Laurence Ryan, Principal Family Court Judge

Photo: RNZ / Aaron Smale

During his five years as the head of the Family Court, Judge Laurence Ryan presided over sweeping changes to the system, which put the onus on parents, rather than the state, to resolve disputes over their children.

The 2014 reforms have caused lengthy delays in the Family Court. As of March there were 8000 defended cases in the court, a 30 percent increase in two years.

That recently prompted chief district court judge Jan-Marie Doogue to announce from October she would divert up to 100 judge-days a month from the criminal to the family jurisdiction

The government has announced it plans to review the changes, but has yet to release details.

In a statement Attorney-General David Parker said the process to find Judge Ryan's replacement was underway with expressions of interest sought last month and interviews expected to take place in mid-August.

Mr Parker said applicants would be assessed against criteria provided by a team seconded from the State Services Commission. That team was working with the Ministry of Justice Appointments Unit on the applications, long-listing, short-listing and assessments.

"Given the significant changes that were introduced in the Family Court through the 2014 reforms, the resulting delays in that court and the full-scale review of those reforms, the Attorney-General wanted to ensure recruitment for the next Principal Family Court Judge included external advice and consideration of the skills and competencies required to oversee changes in the Family Court," he said.

Judge Ryan's term officially ends on 17 August.