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Early Intervention Process - new Family Court case management

NZ $50.00
incl GST
Gary Collin Judge Jackie Moran
Garry Collin
Barrister
Christchurch
Her Hon Judge Jackie Moran
Christchurch
Judge Mary O'Dwyer Jason Wren
Her Hon Judge Mary O'Dwyer
Dunedin
Jason Wren
Duncan Cotterill
Christchurch

Published: 16 March, 2010
Pages: 95

Introduction

The Family Court’s decision to adopt an Early Intervention Process in cases involving children, is one of the most important reforms that we will see in the court for some time.

Management of cases in the court is nothing new; we have had Case Flow Management and Practice Notes dealing with how cases are to be conducted since at least 1998. But since that time the landscape has changed. Work coming into the Family Court has increased and there is, justifiably, greater emphasis on identifying what is actually needed in each case. Some will need very little court intervention while others will need a great deal more. We have to get it right at the outset, and use the breadth of tools available to ensure that we supply speedier access to justice.

Unfortunately, Case Flow Management has not necessarily served us well in all respects. While it has certainly stopped cases from disappearing into “black holes”, it has also resulted in the construction of a quite cumbersome event-based system. For some cases which were not difficult at all, Case Flow Management has seen the creation of an extraordinary number of conferences and reviews before a decision has actually been made. We need to work smarter than this.

After we piloted the Parenting Hearings Programme, the Family Court Bench considered the evaluation and decided that the Parenting Hearings Programme model was not ideal. However, the Christchurch Family Court had commenced its own Early Intervention Programme in early 2009, and by last September it was clear that the Christchurch model had much to commend it. We accordingly decided to combine the best elements of the Christchurch model and the Parenting Hearings Programme.

The Early Intervention Process (EIP) will resolve the vast majority of cases involving children, whether by direct judicial intervention in the urgent track or by concerted alternative dispute resolution in the standard track. Nevertheless there will be some cases that will require hearings in the usual fashion. There remains a place in our system for the adversarial approach to dispute resolution which requires evidence to be called and tested. What we need to ensure in such cases is that both the evidence which is assembled and the questions which are asked under cross examination are relevant. Where they are not, judges will be much more robust in ruling such lines of inquiry out of line.

I hope that the end result of this exciting and important development is that there is better access to justice for children and parents who need to come to the Family Court. I hope that our resources can be used more efficiently and more meaningfully, and that from intake right through to resolution we have the correct people doing the correct tasks.

Peter Boshier
Principal Family Court Judge

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