Family justice system 'a mess' - Justice Minister Andrew Little

The AM Show 17/06/2019

Justice Minister Andrew Little says the Family Court system is a "mess" and changes need to be made.

He told The AM Show measures brought in by Judith Collins in 2014 to cut the legal aid bill have resulted in parents going to Family Court unassisted, with 70 percent of applications to the court being "without notice" which has caused a big backlog.

"Many ministers have observed what's happening in the Family Court at the moment isn't working. When I hear of kids waiting a year or more for their care arrangements to be sorted - that's ridiculous for children," Little says.

The independent panel that looked at Family Court reforms recommended reversing the main reforms.

Those reforms by the National-led Government were aimed at trying to resolve parenting disputes without going to court, and relying less on lawyers.

Little says the report also highlights that the Family Court is currently a monocultural system.

"If you're Maori, if you're Indian or Chinese or any other ethnicity, the system we've got at the moment isn't particularly respectful of different cultural needs, and we need to fix that."

Extended family play a big role in working with separating parents and childcare in te ao Māori [the Maori world].

When the rest of the whanau turn up, everybody's got a stake in it.

"We need to operate in a way that there's a resolution and greater stability for kids."

Little says the Government will take time to consider the extensive recommendations, and to develop a programme for change.

National's court spokesperson Chris Penk says any changes to the justice system won't be easy to make.

He says National will support anything that's likely to improve family court processes.

"But it's a difficult and complex environment so it's important he [Little] and everyone else involved does understand that," he told MagicTalk.

The AM Show / Newshub reporter Rhonwyn Newson