Family Court Fees

June 15th, 2012 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar

The Dom Post editorial:

The Government’s review discussion paper also argues that although the state has a clear role in protecting children and vulnerable adults, its role in resolving what are private parenting squabbles should be reduced. It says, “The court should promote children’s welfare, not parents’ rights”. Neither the Greens nor Labour can fault that, surely? The discussion paper considers, too, whether Domestic Violence Act matters should properly become the preserve of the Domestic Violence Courts, and asks whether opening hearings to greater public scrutiny might make the courts more transparent and the parties more accountable for what is said in court.

Chief Family Court judge Peter Boshier notes the trivial matters that, under present arrangements, reach the bench time and again. “Answers are sought from judges”, he says, “on everything from choice of school to choice of surnames”. Thus, the new fee regime is the least of Family Court issues that should worry Opposition MPs and family lawyers. If its processes are being abused, the family law community has a responsibility not only to ensure that taxpayers get value for the millions they invest in this branch of law, but also that children, not their parents, are front and centre in the process. A Family Court hearing should surely be a last resort.

I think the emphasis on the Family Court being a last resort for feuding couples is the correct one. Having taxpayers pay for court rulings on which school a kid goes to is bad for us, but also bad for the kid that his or her parents have no incentive to sort such disputes out themselves.

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26 Responses to “Family Court Fees”

  1. Graeme Edgeler (3,280 comments) says:

    parents have no incentive to sort such disputes out themselves.

    Because lawyers are free…

    [DPF: with legal aid yes]

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  2. immigant (950 comments) says:

    I think a lot of money could be saved if it was legal to resolve Family Court matters through duels or Mortal Combat.

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  3. RRM (9,771 comments) says:

    Some practitioners, as well as Labour and the Greens, are bleating that children whose parents are caught up in Family Court proceedings will be affected. That might be true, but probably for the better. Mr Power believed that if warring parents had to pull out their wallets before embarking on yet another family-relating hearing, they might try to sort out the issues that divide them without involving judges and their retinues.

    With the greatest of respect, the editor of the Dom Post sounds like an idiot who is ignorant about much of what he is talking about, and is just wanking on about his pet political delusions.

    It is a joke to say parents take family court action frivolously, and it doesn’t cost them enough.

    It took my wife years to repay legal aid for all her legal costs in simply getting a court-administered parenting agreement drawn up between herself and the father of her daughter. It wasn’t something she did for fun, or something she did without even trying obvious simple alternatives.

    The Dom Post is one of our main broadsheet newspapers isn’t it? Astonishing.

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  4. Harriet (4,776 comments) says:

    “…parents have no incentive to sort such disputes out themselves….”

    As a Family court judge in Australia just recently said about no-fault divorce and what it is currently doing to Marriages –

    “When things are optional, people concentrate on the negatives rather than the positives.”

    The massed ranks of NZ’s welfare State are still standing and hesitating at the front door of family homes – allowing society, including lawyers, to take mobile phone contracts more seriously than than the Marriage contracts of childrens parents.

    The only people who will be offended by strengthening the Marriage act are feminists.

    And what little girl would ever want to become one of them when feminists stood by and watched her welfare being neglected ?

    NZ should grow the F*** up, stop appeasing those that truely don’t care about the welfare of children, and strengthen the Marriage Act.

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  5. RRM (9,771 comments) says:

    But what does “Strengthen the marriage act” MEAN, harriet?

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  6. the deity formerly known as nigel6888 (859 comments) says:

    Completely agree RRM, My partner has been put through hell by her control freak ex-husband.

    There really are people out there that you either have to roll over for, or need a legal process to constrain.

    No one who has ever been through a family court process would ever willingly do it again, it is expensive, the judges and the court appointed “experts” are slapdash and seem to relish the power they exercise. For what its worth, I very much doubt the outcomes are in the child’s best interest either. It is run as a zero sum game, and watching a little kid get manipulated by a determined adult is not a pretty sight. Given the number of judges, lawyers and psychologists who depend on the family court process for their livelihoods, I doubt very much its going to change anytime soon.

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  7. Graeme Edgeler (3,280 comments) says:

    [DPF: with legal aid yes]

    But if you receive legal aid, the Court fees will be waived, so this supposed incentive will still not eventuate.

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  8. Harriet (4,776 comments) says:

    RRM #

    “…But what does “Strengthen the marriage act” MEAN, harriet?…”

    For a start,

    Divorce can only be granted once your youngest child turns 18.And if you seperate before that, you cannot live in another house with anyone under the age of 18 – except nieces, nephews and the like.

    That’s about all you would need to do to get people to think before they have affairs.

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  9. Harriet (4,776 comments) says:

    RRM #

    I was to late to edit –

    You cannot also live with any child that you have fathered while seperated, nor can any adult live with children whose parents are seperated.[except auntys, uncles etc.

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  10. RRM (9,771 comments) says:

    Harriet-

    BAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!
    AHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA
    AHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA
    AHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA
    AHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA
    AHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA
    AHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!

    Yeah, that’ll fix everything.

    Do you remember how we used to have a problem with marijuana, so we made it illegal to use marijuana, and now nobody uses marijuana any more? It will be just like that.

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  11. Harriet (4,776 comments) says:

    In simple terms RRM –

    If parents can’t live together for the sake of their own children , they should then give up the right to live with other children.

    It’s common sense really.

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  12. SGA (983 comments) says:

    @RRM 12:52 & @…nigel6888.
    My experience with the family court would pretty much match yours.

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  13. RRM (9,771 comments) says:

    Harriet –

    How well do you think children would thrive, in a household where the two parents cannot stand one another, but are both sticking around because that is the only way the can continue to see and know their own children?

    Where their parents are always clashing and fighting, as people who cannot stand one another tend to do?
    Where one or both parents are frequently sneaking out at night to get a bit of extra-curricular sex, as adults are apt to do?

    Or should we have laws banning those things too? Is that part of the common sense answer?

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  14. Harriet (4,776 comments) says:

    I never said that they couldn’t seperate.

    But it raises the question where divorce is concerned “Are lawyers the only professionals that can help in Marriage disputes ? ” Of course they arn’t, and like the aus judge said ‘people concentrate on the negatives when things are optional’. So if you make divorce more difficult, then couples who may be having problems will seek out other professionals rather than lawyers ! That too is common sense.

    And that also covers ‘sneaking out at night’ – most people will seek out Marriage help long before they seek out cheap women.

    The only reason the divorce rate is so high is because Marriage has been taken of it’s pedastal and people ENTER into it with less thought than they would if it was MORE difficult to leave it.

    By strengthening the Marriage Act, those who choose in the FUTURE to get Married, will have seen by then that Marriage is a lifelong committment.Or at least till their children are young adults themselves.

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  15. Harriet (4,776 comments) says:

    RRM

    When was the last time you read anything in the MSM and mags that praised Marriage or mentioned the benefits of Marriage ?

    Hardly ever – but each week you will read in one thing or another about the negatives of Marriage or lifestyles infering as much, such as, ‘less people are marrying’ ‘is life better with friends with benefits?’ ‘single women like living on their own’ etc.

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  16. SGA (983 comments) says:

    @Harriet –
    “You cannot also live with any child that you have fathered while seperated”
    “most people will seek out Marriage help long before they seek out cheap women”

    It’s always the men, I notice. In your world separated women don’t get pregnant (who looks after those children in your scenario, I wonder) and married women don’t have affairs?

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  17. GPT1 (2,116 comments) says:

    I was surprised by the amount of the filing fees but it is only really bringing the family court into line with civil. Probably appropriate for, eg, property disputes. In terms of COCA I am a little more reticient, I would have certainly supported a gatekeeper fee to make parents think twice – for some parents it is normal to resolve disputes at the Family Court – almost as the first resort. On the other side of the coin I have had clients take matters with an obvious solution (eg: permission for an overseas holiday) to Court because one party simply refuses to agree and/or uses it as leverage. It is easy to say a matter should not be in front of the Court but what other option is there if one party refuses to show any common sense?

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  18. RRM (9,771 comments) says:

    Harriet –

    If you are saying a married couple are likely to be good parents, I agree.

    If you are saying ONLY married couples are good parents, I disagree.

    If you are saying ALL married couples are good parents, I disagree.

    The family court is not for ideal situations, it is for dealing with things that are not ideal.

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  19. F E Smith (3,324 comments) says:

    Harriet,

    family lawyers are not in practice to mend broken homes. They are litigation lawyers, specialising in family law, who are there to advise their clients and then act on the instructions given by those clients.

    DPF,

    I always thought (and GPT will know this better than I) that Family Legal Aid was supposed to be repaid, if possible, and therefore supposed to be more a loan than free. Of course, they say that for Criminal Legal Aid, too, but the MoJ ain’t that great at collecting!

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  20. Chuck Bird (4,830 comments) says:

    Harriet, most of your posts make a lot of sense but you are not being realistic on this topic.

    I believe no fault divorce was a mistake for a number of reasons. In many cases it has created more bitterness – the opposite of what it was supposed to do. It is as bad as ACC where no one is held accountable.

    Just like the many car accidents one person may have avoided the accident but in other cases only one is to blame. What other contract allow someone at fault not to suffer the slightest penalty? I am thinking of sportsmen who get drunk and do not show for example. Under the existing system two people could get married without a contract and one person could screw around, get violent, gamble or whatever and often come out better off as the judge is not allowed to take fault into account. Many people think this is wrong.

    There is no way the law would dump no fault divorce as there are some benefits to it. However, it would not be unreasonable to allow couples to allow fault, blame or whatever you what to call it to be included in a marriage contract.

    I have heard that this option is allow in some country or countries. Has anyone heard of which country of this is the case?

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  21. quirky_username (22 comments) says:

    FE Smith – You are correct, Family Legal Aid is to be repaid. The exception is the applicant for a Protection Order (unless costs are ordered against them as a separate issue). When aid is granted they are given a repayment sum and are told the weekly figure they are to pay. If they do not make the payments their grant of aid is withdrawn.

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  22. KH (694 comments) says:

    These fees are a good move but.
    1. No fees when legally aided.
    2. Plenty of lawyers are happy to prolong proceedings as the ferals are to prolong their miserable fights over the children. Do we really believe these people, often third generation social welfare recipients, actually pay back legal aid.
    It’s rort – aided and abetted by legal aid lawyers. (FE might disagree. If so he is not talking to the same lawyers as I do)

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  23. Nostalgia-NZ (5,093 comments) says:

    I think the system is over burdened at the moment. The Court is put in a position that once a file is opened anything can happen, often long range attacks on an ex partner. It looks to me that too many cases are entered into the Court system. If there were a set of rules, starting with shared custody might be a start with an allowance for that to be reviewed after submissions in writing. With people needing to write things before reaching toward a court decision, I think the actual hearings would have greater significance on the basis that things could be decided on the day. This would leave the Courts ‘above’ the pettiness of many applications that become an endless round of hearings where nothing is decided. In many ways the current system promotes delay, making sure that a party has help, attend, have had advice, that a report has been requested and so on until till the Court is clogged. At the moment is seems clogged because of the enable-ment of parties to bring hostility, grievance etc into Court that they should be able to sort out for themselves. A presumption of shared custody could help avoid that. It would also help some parties recognise they needed to be able to provide the care, or alternatively surrender that they cant. The current system costs a lot of money and presumes people have no common sense, or no onus upon themselves to sort their own lives out.

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  24. barry (1,317 comments) says:

    Somewhere in the US, the family mediation is completely confidential, but if you insist on going to court then there is no secrecy at all – everything is hung out to dry.

    I am told that use of the court has dopped markedly…………………….

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  25. Harriet (4,776 comments) says:

    Chuck Bird #

    It is from Howard[aus pm] whom I first heard “the Marriage Act needs to be strengthened” and given the role that Marriage performs FOR society; providing welfare for children, I think Howard is absolutly right.

    From memory the Howard government increased funding for Marriage counciling services, and I think it was at Tony Abbotts suggestion.

    This shows that ‘professional’ help is available when trouble starts in Marriage, and should be the first point of call rather than lawyers who mostly are seen as those who really just ‘finalise the end of Marriage’.

    Making Marriage harder to leave, will, as the Aus family court judge suggested “get people to concentrate on the positives of Marriage, rather than seeing Marriage as ‘optional’ and then only concentrating on the negatives.”

    The money spent on lawyers, courts etc BY GOVERNMENT would be better to all concerned if it is spent on counciling services instead.

    It is also morally incumbant on government to at least commit the SAME amount to Marriage support given that children are ‘harmed from divorce’.

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  26. SGA (983 comments) says:

    @Harriet
    As most people have commented, your specific proposal is unrealistic.

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