New legislation restores right to legal representation in Family Court

Published on 1 July 2020

New legislation took effect on 1 July 2020 that restores the right to legal representation at the start of a Family Court care of children hearing. The legislation was announced as part of a package in Budget 2020 designed to support eligible parties in Family Court proceedings to access a private lawyer or legal aid.

The Family Court (Supporting Families in Court) Legislation Act 2020 ensures that families and whānau are well supported with early legal advice. This will help reduce delays in resolving issues in the Family Court.

Until now, most Family Court participants haven’t had legal representation when making applications in relation to parenting or guardianship orders, with applicants instead being encouraged to represent themselves in court.

From 1 July 2020, eligible participants in all new and current Family Court hearings will have access to legal representation. Participants can still choose to represent themselves if they decide to.

Announced as part of Budget 2020, these initial changes to the Family Court will also:

  • establish Family Justice Liaison Officers to help parents and whānau navigate the system
  • increase remuneration for lawyers for children to incentivise the recruitment and retention of skilled legal practitioners.

These initiatives will help to strengthen the Family Court and support parents and whānau through what are often emotionally and financially stressful proceedings.

You can read the new legislation here:

Family Court (Supporting Families in Court) Legislation Act(external link)

For a factsheet about these changes see:

Court users:

Factsheet for court users about Family Court changes 1 July 2020 [PDF, 116 KB]

Service providers:

Factsheet for service providers about Family Court changes 1 July 2020 [PDF, 88 KB]


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