1 Aug 2018

Watch: Andrew Little reveals appointments to Family Court review panel

7:07 pm on 1 August 2018

The government has started the process of a review of the family justice system, after changes made by the last government four years ago.

Justice Minister Andrew Little has named three experts to head an independent panel - former Chief Human Rights Commissioner Rosslyn Noonan, and family law experts, La Verne King and Chris Dellabarca.

The panel will look at what changes should made to ensure the welfare and best interests of the children are paramount when disputes about their care are being settled.

Mr Little said the changes made under National were supposed to help parents resolve disputes without having to go court.

But he said they have had the opposite effect.

"The 2014 changes were meant to help people resolve parenting disputes without having to go to court, but have in fact led to the opposite as there's been a huge increase in the number of urgent 'without notice' applications which have to be put before a Family Court judge," he said.

Mr Little said it concerned him that families and children could be losing out, and not receiving adequate advice and support during what was a tough time.

Justice Minister Andrew Little with Rosslyn Noonan.

Justice Minister Andrew Little with Rosslyn Noonan. Photo: RNZ / Richard Tindiller

Mr Little said he had urged the panellists to take on a "human rights approach" to equally consider the views of all parties involved.

"The overwhelming range of comments that I get as Justice Minister about the family court is that many women who [are] parties to proceedings in the court don't feel as if they're being heard. Especially women who are victims of family violence.

"Many men, fathers, saying that they don't consider their applications to continue to play a parenting in the lives of their child are being properly heard."

The proceedings involving children which took longer to complete had implications on theirs lives and the families and delayed care arrangements, he said.

Parents should feel confident about approaching the courts, he said.

"Even if they feel disappointed with the result, within a few months after it if they can look back and say 'you know what, in the end actaully I was treated fairly, I was treated well, I haven't been traumatised by this."

The panel will have a few months to consult members of the profession, advocacy groups, and people who have been through the system to come up with a package of changes.

Panel chairwoman Ms Noonan said she recognise the urgency of the review and understood the necessity of the tight timeframe.

"We're looking forward to consulting widely but we're also aware that there's a whole body of work been done ... that's why I'm hopeful within the limited timeframe we'll be able to come up with concrete and sustainable suggestions for what can be done to improve the processes," she said.