Family justice reform

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Reform underway in the family justice system

The Government is working to ensure that children and families affected by disputes about care arrangements receive appropriate support, representation, and protection.

The reforms respond to recommendations made by an independent panel in the 2019 report Te Korowai Ture ā-Whānau, which examined the impact of major changes that were made in 2014. The panel’s report made 69 recommendations for reform across five areas: child-centred processes; safety; inclusivity and responsiveness to culture and diversity; delay; and access to services and to the Family Court.

First phase of reform

The Government started implementing the panel's report in July 2020 through the Family Court (Supporting Families in Court) Legislation Act 2020.(external link)

This Act forms part of a $62 million package that:

  • reinstated the right to legal representation in the early stages of Care of Children Act cases in the Family Court allowed parties to those cases, and access to legal aid in eligible cases
  • established new Kaiārahi-Family Court Navigators to provide guidance and information about the resolution and support options available to parents, caregivers and whānau who are considering applying to the Family Court. Further information is available here.
  • increased remuneration for lawyers for children, to incentivise the recruitment and retention of skilled practitioners, and
  • will provide quality, accessible resources and information that will help children, parents and whānau to navigate Care of Children matters. The material will be produced in a range of formats and languages. Children, parents and whānau will have access to the information they need to understand their options both in and out of court.

The Government has also progressed the Family Court (Supporting Children in Court) Legislation Act 2021(external link) which passed in August 2021 and will be in force by August 2023. It will introduce a new emphasis on children’s participation in the resolution of disputes around their care, where appropriate. The Act also signals that family violence should be considered in all decisions about children’s care.

To support the implementation of the Act, the Ministry of Justice has commissioned a report on best practice for children’s participation in mediation and court processes. This will suggest ways to safely involve children in these processes. The review will be completed in March 2022.

Further phases of reform

The Government is establishing a new role in the Family Court, known as a Family Court Associate, to make more effective use of judge time to enable the faster resolution of cases and reduce delay. Legislation to establish the role will be introduced into Parliament in 2022.

The Government is also undertaking a review and rewrite of the Family Court Rules 2002 (the Review). This will provide an opportunity to improve the operation of the Family Court and ensure that court processes protect the interests of children and respond to the diverse cultural needs of participants. The Review will be undertaken in collaboration with the Judiciary and key stakeholders. The Review also responds to one of the recommendations of the report Te Korowai Ture ā-Whānau. 

Te Korowai Ture ā-Whānau report

Full report

Final report from the Independent Panel [PDF, 1.3 MB]

Final report from the Indpendent Panel [DOCX, 11 MB]

Executive summary:

Te Reo executive summary [PDF, 335 KB]

Te Reo executive summary [DOCX, 54 KB]

Easy read executive summary [PDF, 3.7 MB]

Easy read executive summary [DOCX, 7.3 MB]

The video below presents the panel’s Executive Summary in New Zealand Sign Language.

The panel also released a research report commissioned from UMR Research, which summarises qualitative interviews UMR conducted with children, Māori and Pasifika parents and whānau, and disabled parents.

UMR family justice reforms main report [PDF, 943 KB]

UMR family justice reforms appendices report [PDF, 582 KB]

You can read the Justice Minister's media release about the report:

Independent Panel's report on family justice system welcomed(external link)

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Consultation and submissions

The panel conducted two rounds of public consultation to inform its Final Report. It received about 650 submissions.

The first round of consultation

The panel’s first round of consultation was aimed at identifying what's been working well and what hasn't since 2014. People using and working in the system were invited to make submissions. Thank you to all those who took the time to have their say.

A summary of the submissions received can be viewed at:

Submissions Summary: Independent Panel examining the 2014 family justice reforms [PDF, 824 KB]

Submissions Summary: Independent Panel examining the 2014 family justice reforms [DOCX, 3.1 MB]

Submissions from organisations that approved public release can be found at the following links:

The Backbone Collective [PDF, 295 KB]

Barnardos [PDF, 626 KB]

Blind Citizens NZ [PDF, 132 KB]

Human Rights Commission [PDF, 734 KB]

IHC New Zealand [PDF, 648 KB]

New Zealand Law Society [PDF, 1 MB]

New Zealand Nurses Organisation [PDF, 224 KB]

Northern Specialist Report Writers [PDF, 495 KB]

Office of Children's Commissioner [PDF, 340 KB]

Royal Australian and NZ College of Psychiatrists [PDF, 289 KB]

Save the Children [PDF, 165 KB]

Skylight Trust [PDF, 497 KB]

The panel’s consultation paper from the first phase of consultation can be found at the following links.

English:  The 2014 family justice system reforms [PDF, 1.1 MB]

Te Reo Māori:  Whakaputahia Ō Whakaaro (Māori) [PDF, 1.2 MB]

EasyRead:  Have your say on the family justice system [PDF, 5.9 MB]

The second round of consultation

Based on what they heard in the first phase of consultation, the panel produced a second consultation document which outlined their initial thoughts on a proposed direction for change to the Family Court and related services.

Summary of submissions [PDF, 2.1 MB]

Submissions from organisations that approved public release can be found at the following links:

ADL [PDF, 253 KB]

Auckland Coalition for the Safety of Women and Children [PDF, 1.1 MB]

AMINZ [PDF, 248 KB]

Anthony Butters [PDF, 47 KB]

Barnardos [PDF, 626 KB]

Birthright NZ [PDF, 187 KB]

Claudia Elliot [PDF, 2.2 MB]

Court staff member [PDF, 81 KB]

Court staff member (2) [PDF, 182 KB]

Family Works Central [PDF, 1.4 MB]

Family Works Northern [PDF, 415 KB]

FDR Centre [PDF, 371 KB]

FV Death Review Committee [PDF, 316 KB]

Isabel Aldiss [PDF, 149 KB]

MoJ Runanga [PDF, 536 KB]

Nigel Dunlop [PDF, 1.1 MB]

NZ FC Court Psych Group [PDF, 304 KB]

NZ Nurses Association [PDF, 307 KB]

NZAC [PDF, 251 KB]

OCC [PDF, 591 KB]

Parent [PDF, 70 KB]

Parent (2) [PDF, 425 KB]

Paul von Dadelszen QSO [PDF, 268 KB]

Portia Law [PDF, 443 KB]

Resolution Institute [PDF, 685 KB]

Roger Payne [PDF, 116 KB]

Save the Children [PDF, 165 KB]

Steve Zindel [PDF, 260 KB]

Te Putahitanga [PDF, 552 KB]

Waitemata Community Law Centre [PDF, 1 MB]

Warwick Marshall [PDF, 264 KB]

Youth Law [PDF, 453 KB]

The panel’s consultation paper from the second phase of consultation can be found at the following links.

English: Strengthening the family justice system [PDF, 2 MB]

English: Strengthening the family justice system [DOCX, 1.2 MB]

Te Reo: Te Whakapakari i te Pūnaha Whakawā mō te Whānau [PDF, 3.6 MB]

EasyRead: Strengthening the family justice system [PDF, 4.1 MB]

EasyRead: Strengthening the family justice system [DOCX, 10 MB]

The following document contains answers to some frequently asked questions about the panel and its work:

Strengthening the family justice system - Q and A [PDF, 330 KB]

Related documents

The Cabinet Paper which approved the Rewrite of the 2014 family justice system reforms [PDF, 139 KB]

The Cabinet paper that approved the first phase of reform [PDF, 1.9 MB]

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