9 Jan 2014

Law centres fear influx after court changes

6:30 pm on 9 January 2014

Community Law Centres are worried about the burden that changes to the Family Court will put them under.

From March, people using the Family Court system will have restricted access to legal representation, and to mandatory dispute resolution in the early stages of a dispute.

The reforms are designed to simplify the process and reduce court costs, but the Law Society says it is worried they will actually make the system more complex, expensive and unequal.

Community Law Centres Aotearoa chief executive Liz Tennet says more clients are likely to come to the organisation because of the changes and that will put more pressure on its budget.

Ms Tennet says the organisation sees 250,000 people a year and it is only just able to cope with that number, so an influx of new clients will put the organisation under financial stress.

The Ministry of Justice is creating a Family Legal Advice service to help clients navigate the changes to the Family Court system.

It says those who meet legal aid criteria will qualify for free legal advice through the new service and won't have to pay the $780 dispute resolution fee.