Family Court fee a disincentive that mocks consultation

Wednesday 13 June 2012, 11:25AM
By Labour Party

New fees introduced to the family court system will work as a disincentive for those who need the Court’s help most, says Labour’s Justice spokesperson Charles Chauvel.

The fees, which include $220 for custody disputes, and $700 to lodge relationship property applications -- incurring a hearing fee of $1812 per day -- will come into effect from 1 July.

“Courts Minister Chester Burrows is calling the introduction of fees a ‘fence in the road’ (whatever that means) to disincentivise parents who are using their children as ‘weapons’ in the settlement process from using the Court.

“Surely these are the very children who are likely to need a speedy resolution of their parents’ problems through the intervention of the Court.  Simply pricing struggling families out of solutions will only see children trapped in volatile, potentially unsafe situations,” Charles Chauvel said.

“The introduction of fees also undercuts the family court review currently in progress. This review is being done in consultation with people who have a detailed experience of the challenges faced under the current family court process.

“Justice Minister Judith Collins said in February that it was important enough to delay changes to legal aid pending its outcome.  Yet Chester Borrows thinks it is fine to make a fundamental change to the character of the Family Court – by expanding user pays there – without waiting for the outcome of the review.

“This blundered process and double standard is an insult to those experts who have participated in the review in good faith.

“It looks like the entire exercise is a National Party charade,” Charles Chauvel said.

“Finally, Chester Borrows admitted in question time at Parliament today that he could not say exactly what consultation had taken place with the Family Court Judges themselves over the introduction of the fees.

“National needs to stop treating the input of the judiciary into how the court system may be improved with contempt,” Charles Chauvel said.