Fees being introduced for civil disputes in the Family Court will help to better focus its resources, Courts Minister Chester Borrows said today.
The new fees are only for applications for division of assets and child care arrangements and come into effect on 1 July 2012.
Mr Borrows said that a fee waiver regime was being retained to ensure people with limited means had access to the Court. Fees do not apply for domestic violence cases, such as protection orders, or care and protection applications.
“Until now, the Family Court only charged fees for divorce applications. Introducing fees for civil disputes brings it in line with other courts in New Zealand and with family jurisdictions in Australia and England,” says Mr Borrows.
An application relating to child care arrangements will cost a flat fee of $220 with no hearing costs. While an application relating to the division of assets will cost $700, there is also a hearing fee of $906 for each half day. The hearing fee is based on the equivalent fee in the District Court.
“Targeted fees provide an incentive for people to deal with their relationship problems outside of Court, where possible,” Mr Borrows says. “Avoiding court and litigation is usually better for the people involved, and it’s certainly better if children can be kept out of the court process.
“We want the Family Court focused on the people who need judicial involvement and judgments about cases.
“There are a number of other resolution approaches people can use outside of court, including mediation.
“Family Court costs have increased over 70 per cent to $142 million over the past six years and we want people to realise Court processes are costly and should only be used as a last resort. It’s sensible that people contribute toward that cost,” Mr Borrows says.