About the Family Court
Overview of the Family Court
About the Family Court
Because it involves family relationships and issues that are often personal and sensitive, family law can be a particularly complicated area. The Family Court is a specialist court that was set up to try to take this into account. This section provides information about the Family Court and some of its special features and processes.
What types of cases does the Family Court deal with?
The Family Court deals with a wide range of family law issues, including:
- guardianship, including appointing guardians and resolving disputes between them (see “Guardianship of children” in this chapter)
- care arrangements for children (see “Care arrangements when parents have separated” in this chapter)
- abuse and neglect of children (see the chapter “Dealing with Oranga Tamariki / Ministry for Children”)
- adoption (see “Adoption” in this chapter)
- separation and dissolution (divorce) for marriages and civil unions (see the chapter “Relationships and break-ups”)
- relationship property (see the chapter “Relationships and break-ups”)
- family violence – which the law used to call “domestic” violence (see the chapter “Family violence and elder abuse”)
- disputes about wills (see the chapter “Wills”)
- mental health compulsory assessment and treatment (see the chapter “Mental health”)
- decision-making for people who have become mentally incapacitated (see the chapter “Decision making and powers of attorney”)
What’s it like in the Family Court?
The Family Court Act requires the Family Court to avoid unnecessary formality.
The rules of evidence are also more flexible in the Family Court: the judges are allowed to accept a wide variety of evidence, including evidence that wouldn’t be allowed in other courts.
About the judges and the court staff
Judges – To be appointed as a Family Court judge you must have at least seven years’ experience as a lawyer, and you must also have the right training, experience and personality for dealing with family disputes.
- Registry staff – The Family Court registry staff make some of the procedural decisions that keep a case moving towards a final decision by a judge – for example, timetabling decisions about when the next step in the case has to completed. The registry staff are also responsible for managing individual cases: if you have a question about your own case you should contact the staff member whose name is on any letters you’ve received from the Family Court about your case.
- Family Court Coordinator – The coordinator can give you information about the court and its services. They also liaise with other people involved in Family Court processes such as specialist report writers (psychologists for example), social workers and lawyers appointed for children. Most Family Courts have a coordinator. If it’s a smaller Family Court that doesn’t have one, the court manager will be able to help you.