Family Court Rewrite

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Final report from the Independent Panel examining the 2014 family justice reforms

In 2014, major changes were made to the family justice system. The reforms aimed to help people resolve parenting disputes without having to go to court. However, we now know that these changes aren't working for some people.

An Independent Panel appointed by the Minister of Justice examined the changes and considered how they've impacted separating families and their children.

The panel’s final report outlines their findings and recommendations.

The government started implementing the Panel’s report in July 2020 by passing the Family Court (Supporting Families in Court) Legislation Act 2020.

This Act forms part of the $62 million package designed to:

  • Restore the right to legal representation at the start of a case in the Family Court;
  • Allow parties to those proceedings, where eligible, to access legal aid;
  • Establish Family Justice Liaison Officers and produce better information resources to help parents and whānau navigate the system;
  • Increase remuneration for lawyers for children to incentivise the recruitment and retention of skilled practitioners.

The government has also introduced the Family Court (Supporting Children in Court) Legislation Bill that amends the Care of Children Act 2004 and the Family Dispute Resolution Act 2013 to assist in enhancing child wellbeing in care-of-children proceedings, both directly and by assisting parents to resolve parenting disputes.

Full report:

Final report from the Independent Panel [PDF, 1.3 MB]

Final report from the Indpendent Panel [DOCX, 11 MB]

Executive summary:

Te Reo executive summary [PDF, 335 KB]

Te Reo executive summary [DOCX, 54 KB]

Easy read executive summary [PDF, 3.7 MB]

Easy read executive summary [DOCX, 7.3 MB]

The video below presents the Panel’s Executive Summary in New Zealand Sign Language.

The Panel also released a research report commissioned from UMR Research, which summarises qualitative interviews UMR conducted with children, Māori and Pasifika parents and whānau, and disabled parents.

UMR family justice reforms main report [PDF, 943 KB]

UMR family justice reforms appendices report [PDF, 582 KB]

If you have questions about the Panel’s work, please email

You can read the Justice Minister's media release about the report:

Independent Panel's report on family justice system welcomed(external link)

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Consultation and submissions

The Panel conducted two rounds of public consultation to inform its Final Report. It received about 650 submissions.

The first round of consultation

The Panel’s first round of consultation was aimed at identifying what's been working well and what hasn't since 2014. People using and working in the system were invited to make submissions. Thank you to all those who took the time to have their say.

A summary of the submissions received can be viewed at:

Submissions Summary: Independent Panel examining the 2014 family justice reforms [PDF, 824 KB]

Submissions Summary: Independent Panel examining the 2014 family justice reforms [DOCX, 3.1 MB]

Submissions from organisations that approved public release can be found at the following links:

The Backbone Collective [PDF, 295 KB]

Barnardos [PDF, 626 KB]

Blind Citizens NZ [PDF, 132 KB]

Human Rights Commission [PDF, 734 KB]

IHC New Zealand [PDF, 648 KB]

New Zealand Law Society [PDF, 1 MB]

New Zealand Nurses Organisation [PDF, 224 KB]

Northern Specialist Report Writers [PDF, 495 KB]

Office of Children's Commissioner [PDF, 340 KB]

Royal Australian and NZ College of Psychiatrists [PDF, 289 KB]

Save the Children [PDF, 165 KB]

Skylight Trust [PDF, 497 KB]

The Panel’s consultation paper from the first phase of consultation can be found at the following links.

English:  The 2014 family justice system reforms [PDF, 1.1 MB]

Te Reo Māori:  Whakaputahia Ō Whakaaro (Māori) [PDF, 1.2 MB]

EasyRead:  Have your say on the family justice system [PDF, 5.9 MB]

The second round of consultation

Based on what they heard in the first phase of consultation, the Panel produced a second consultation document which outlined their initial thoughts on a proposed direction for change to the Family Court and related services.

Summary of submissions [PDF, 2.1 MB]

Submissions from organisations that approved public release can be found at the following links:

ADL [PDF, 253 KB]

Auckland Coalition for the Safety of Women and Children [PDF, 1.1 MB]


Anthony Butters [PDF, 47 KB]

Barnardos [PDF, 626 KB]

Birthright NZ [PDF, 187 KB]

Claudia Elliot [PDF, 2.2 MB]

Court staff member [PDF, 81 KB]

Court staff member (2) [PDF, 182 KB]

Family Works Central [PDF, 1.4 MB]

Family Works Northern [PDF, 415 KB]

FDR Centre [PDF, 371 KB]

FV Death Review Committee [PDF, 316 KB]

Isabel Aldiss [PDF, 149 KB]

MoJ Runanga [PDF, 536 KB]

Nigel Dunlop [PDF, 1.1 MB]

NZ FC Court Psych Group [PDF, 304 KB]

NZ Nurses Association [PDF, 307 KB]

NZAC [PDF, 251 KB]

OCC [PDF, 591 KB]

Parent [PDF, 70 KB]

Parent (2) [PDF, 425 KB]

Paul von Dadelszen QSO [PDF, 268 KB]

Portia Law [PDF, 443 KB]

Resolution Institute [PDF, 685 KB]

Roger Payne [PDF, 116 KB]

Save the Children [PDF, 165 KB]

Steve Zindel [PDF, 260 KB]

Te Putahitanga [PDF, 552 KB]

Waitemata Community Law Centre [PDF, 1 MB]

Warwick Marshall [PDF, 264 KB]

Youth Law [PDF, 453 KB]

The Panel’s consultation paper from the second phase of consultation can be found at the following links.

English: Strengthening the family justice system [PDF, 2 MB]

English: Strengthening the family justice system [DOCX, 1.2 MB]

Te Reo: Te Whakapakari i te Pūnaha Whakawā mō te Whānau [PDF, 3.6 MB]

EasyRead: Strengthening the family justice system [PDF, 4.1 MB]

EasyRead: Strengthening the family justice system [DOCX, 10 MB]

The following document contains answers to some frequently asked questions about the Panel and its work:

Strengthening the family justice system - Q and A [PDF, 330 KB]

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Key dates for the Family Justice Rewrite

1 August 2018 Terms of Reference announced
5 September - 9 November 2018 First round of public consultation
23 January - 1 March 2019 Second round of public consultation
31 May 2019 Report delivered to the Minister of Justice

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About the Panel

Rosslyn Noonan (Chair) is Director of the New Zealand Centre for Human Rights, Law, Policy and Practice at the University of Auckland. Between 2001- 2011 Rosslyn was Chief Commissioner of the Human Rights Commission and she chaired the International Coordinating Committee of National Human Rights Institutions between 2010 to 2012. During her career, Rosslyn has been National Secretary of the New Zealand Educational Institute, National Executive of the New Zealand Council of Trade Unions, Commissioner for the Royal Commission on Social Policy, and Trade Union and Human Rights Co-ordinator for Education International. Rosslyn has broad experience working in the areas of conflict resolution, race, ethnic and religious relations in multicultural societies, and gender equality.

La-Verne King (Ngāti Kahu, Ngāti Paoa and Ngāti Kahungunu) is a lawyer based in Taipa, Northland. She specialises in family law, Youth Court work, Māori land law and residential conveyancing. La-Verne previously established an all Māori and Pasifika women legal practice in South Auckland – King Alofivae Malosi – which received the Auckland District Law Society’s EEO ‘Most Innovative’ award in 2000. She was appointed lawyer for child from 1994, District Inspector for Mental Health in 2003 and Visiting Justice in 2009. La-Verne was the inaugural convenor of the Māori Issues Committee of the Family Law Section of the New Zealand Law Society and is a former Co Chairperson of Te Hunga Roia Māori o Aotearoa (NZ Māori Law Society).

Chris Dellabarca is a Wellington-based lawyer specialising in family law. From 1995 to 2012 Chris was in general practice, including family law, and tutored at the Institute of Professional Legal Studies. He joined a Wellington family law firm in 2012 as a partner and has specialised in family law since then. Chris acts as a lawyer for child, lawyer to assist the Court, and counsel for Central Authority in cases involving child abduction.

Expert Reference Group

The Panel is being supported by an Expert Reference Group. The Expert Reference Group includes experts in child psychology, mediation, family law, kaupapa Māori research, and family violence. It also includes representation for professionals working in the family justice system.

Find out more about the Expert Reference Group(external link)

Terms of reference

The Panel's terms of reference were announced by the Minister of Justice in August 2018. The Minister has asked the Panel to report back to him by May 2019.

Terms of Reference for the Independent Panel [PDF, 70 KB]

Minister’s Press Release - Panel appointed to re-write 2014 Family Court reforms(external link)

Related documents

The Cabinet Paper which approved the Rewrite of the 2014 family justice system reforms [PDF, 139 KB]

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