With the initiation of the Family Justice System from 1 April 2014, the way that disputes over care of children or guardianship matters for children are fixed has improved dramatically.
The purpose of this approach is to support caregivers, guardians, and parents settle such disputes themselves, instead of seeking court proceedings. It is assumed that this will diminish some of the conflicts, delays, and costs linked with the previous approach.
In most cases, if you cannot agree on arrangements of children’s care, and if there are no safety matters or other reasons why the issue needs to go directly into court, you will be obligated to first go through a course known as “Parenting Through Separation”. If that doesn’t settle all stuff in dispute, you will be expected to attend mediation. If mediation does not fix all issues in dispute then proceedings before the court may be filed.
How does Mediation work?
The purpose of mediation is to use the trained mediator to assist you and another party to reach your own agreement on arrangements of care for your children. Although mediation services are being offered by a variety of people and organizations, but the new Family Court system requires you to use a mediator given through the Family Disputes Resolution Service. You may not be able to file proceedings in respect of any unresolved disputes if you cannot prove that you have practiced mediation with an authorized FDRS mediator within the past 1 year.
After mediation, if your matter comes into court, you will most likely be asked to file your documents yourself, and to represent yourself before the judge at the initial conferences. You may not have a legal counsel appear in court with you at the dispute conference, and you may only have an attorney with you at the settlement conference if directed by the court. If your matter proceeds to a court hearing, however, an attorney can represent you at the court hearing itself.
The Ministry of Justice has formed arrangements to present some primary legal advice and mediation services without any remuneration, through the Family Legal Advice Service, for those who meet the funding criteria.
What to do in the early stage of a dispute?
It will often be very crucial that you get legal advice at an early stage of your case, even if you don’t meet the requirements for legal assistance. You are needed to appropriately prepare for mediation, and make arrangements of the mandatory court documents if mediation doesn’t settle all issues. As well as you are required to appear in the court and attend the arrangement conference.
If it appears that your dispute will proceed to a court hearing, you will be required to attend the guardianship or child care dispute hearing and prepare the proof that you will rely on the hearing before the judge.
If you have any queries about any of the child care disputes please do not hesitate to reach out to our competent and knowledgeable lawyers.