1. About the author
I would like to speak to my submission before the Select Committee. My experience provides a solid foundation to my submissions.
2. General position
I want to also note that due to the nature of the people who are my clients and the strict confidentiality and delicacy of Family Court matters, it has been challenging to encourage the people most affected by these proposed changes to speak on their own behalf. I have, however, consulted with clients in writing this submission.
I am particularly concerned about the restrictions on assistance from a lawyer. I believe this will result in an uneven playing field and create a barrier to accessing to justice for people who:
- Have been subjected to family violence, especially psychological violence which is often less easily identified
- Have English as a second language or have a cultural background that makes navigating the New Zealand Court system particularly challenging
- Have a mental health difficulty
- Have limited literacy
- Are hearing or vision impaired
- Are of a young age
- Are socially disenfranchised
- Are generally shy, self-conscious or inarticulate
I am concerned that limiting the appointment of a Lawyer for the Child will mean that children are not adequately represented or heard. Lawyer for the Child also assist with early dispute resolution through their advocacy for the child and I am concerned this opportunity might be lost if Lawyer for the Child is appointed later in the court case rather than at an earlier stage.
Finally, I am concerned that the cost associated with the Family Dispute Resolution Service will create a hurdle to accessing justice for those who need it most, and at the very least contribute to inequity between parties of different means.