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Case File Sample

Overview

The Ministry of Justice, in collaboration with the judiciary and court staff reviewed a sample of Care of Children Act 2004 (CoCA) and Propert (Relationships) Act 1976 (PRA) cases to help inform the Review.[1]  The cases selected were not intended to be representative of all cases involving applications made under these Acts but, instead, provide some insight into the nature of more complex cases coming before the Family Court.

Care of Children Act cases were selected as they relate to the welfare and safety of children and this case type presently accounts for the majority of substantive applications. Property (Relationships) Act cases were selected as these cases often take the longest to resolve.  This is of concern when considering the significant monetary amounts involved.

Sample Criteria

The samples were selected to fit the following criteria:

1. Case type: Files with at least one disposed CoCA application in each file. Also files with at least one disposed PRA application in the file.  All disposed CoCA files where decisions had been appealed.

2. Date: Files to be opened in 2006 - applications may be made from any time forward. Files opened in 2007 were included if 2006 did not produce enough files with the necessary attributes.

3. Location [2]: Files were located in the following courts: Whangarei, Manukau, Waitakere, Hamilton, Lower Hutt, Porirua, Rotorua, Invercargill, North Shore, Palmerston North.

Of the files selected, the CoCA and PRA applications in each file were to ideally display the following characteristics:

  • notice of an intention to defend
  • appointment of Lawyer for Child
  • ordering of specialist reports
  • co-occurrence of other application types (eg, protection orders)
  • occurrence of a defended hearing.

Sample selection and data collection

The file numbers of cases that fitted the criteria were selected from the Ministry's Case Management System (CMS)  administrative database.[3]  Data collection sheets and spreadsheets with the relevant file numbers were sent to the ten courts.  The data was extracted from the court files by Caseflow Managers in June 2011.  Information was taken from:

  • the information sheet accompanying any application
  • any judgment issuedany directions issued
  • specialist reports
  • Lawyer for Child reports.

Information was not extracted from affidavits or memoranda.

Sample size

Each court was requested to sample 20 CoCA files (200 in total), 10 PRA files (100 in total) and all CoCA appeal files. The actual total sample sizes were 173 CoCA files, 88 PRA files, and 6 CoCA appeal files.

Click here for Property (Relationships) Act 1976 files

Click here for Care of Children Act 2004 files

Footnotes

1.  Applications to enable a search pursuant to Rule 427 of the Family Court Rules 2002 were made to each of the District Court sites selected to participate in the file sampling.

2. Courts were selected based on the volumes of applications they are currently processing.  Such volumes would be more likely to give us sufficient files to search plus they fitted the likely demographic make up of our future customer base.  Christchurch was not included due to the disruption caused by the recent earthquakes.  Dunedin and Tauranga were originally selected but for administrative reasons were replaced with Invercargill and Rotorua.

3. CMS is the Case Management System used by the Ministry of Justice to provide administrative support for the General Jurisdiction Courts and some Specialist Jurisdiction Courts and Administrative Tribunals.

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