Research on conciliation counselling
9.95In 1987, 35% of requests for conciliation counselling came through a solicitor.1033 Maxwell’s research found that positive outcomes were more likely when there had been joint sessions; when the referral was made under section 9; and when there were six or more sessions.1034 Many disputes were settled at the conciliation counselling stage, which can “incorporate mediatory efforts as well as pure counselling”.1035 In a 1987 sample of cases, 77% of couples reached full or partial agreement in conciliation counselling. Between 1982 and 1988, requests for conciliation counselling increased from one third to one half of the counselling case load. “This increase in the voluntary use of conciliation has paralleled a decline in the volume of defended court hearings”.1036 However only 43% reached agreement after the court had referred the parties to conciliation counselling.
9.96The Family Courts Act 1980 established the post of Counselling Co-ordinator, whose duty (set out in section 8) is to facilitate the proper functioning of the Family Court and of counselling and related services, such as mediation.1037 Subsection (3) provides that the Co-ordinator is an officer of the court.
9.97One of the Family Court Judges1038 has stated that the Counselling Co-ordinator has played a pivotal role in the Family Court and has been critical to its success. Judge Cartwright noted that “in all parts of New Zealand where there is a counselling co-ordinator attached to the Family Court the level of judicial work in Court has dropped markedly”. The Co-ordinator had humanised the “otherwise bureaucratic face of the Court”. The lawyers had also taken advantage of the service by referring clients to the Co-ordinator for appropriate referral to a counsellor or other agency.1039
1033 Chart, “Some New Zealand initiatives in Alternative Dispute Resolution”. Commonwealth Law Ministers conference, Auckland (1990), 605.
1034 Section 9 of the Family Proceedings Act 1980 provides for counselling at the request of either party to the marriage. Supra at 85.
1035 Davidson, “Family Court Counselling and Mediation: the vexed question of standards and personnel in New Zealand” (1986), 1 FLB 73, 75.
1036 Maxwell, supra at 54.
1037 In some countries, like New Zealand and Ireland, the courts are subsumed under a Department of Justice. In Hong Kong the Courts are independent of the Department of Justice.
1038 Her Honour Cartwright, “The New Zealand Family Court in operation: legislation”, Commonwealth Law Bulletin, January 1986, at 239-40.
1039 Ibid at 240.