About us

FDSS – Family Disputes Support Services is a not-for-profit community organization dedicated to provide support and assistance to separated whānau who are dealing with parental disputes following the breakdown of their relationship, whether within or outside the Family Court.

We are a collective of community members with a wealth of knowledge and extensive experience in helping families resolve their disputes amicably through conciliation, mediation or the Family Court system. For over a decade, we have been actively helping and supporting many whānau from all over New Zealand.

Every year, a significant number of New Zealand parents find themselves navigating the challenging process of family separation without adequate help or guidance. This unfortunate reality often leaves them and their vulnerable children exposed to high levels of parental conflict, mental health issues, instances of suicide, and family violence and more difficulties. Many parents face the daunting task of managing their family separation process, sudden lifestyle changes, and protecting their children from harmful levels of conflict. Furthermore, many encounter additional obstacles, such as making critical decisions and comprehending the intricacies of resolving their disputes amicably.

Moreover, many of these parents are compelled to represent themselves in the Family Court, seeking access to their children, safeguarding their well-being and their children from violence, or defending themselves against some serious accusations. They are left to navigate the complex Family Justice system entirely unsupported, often facing professional legal representation from the opposing party or dealing with vexatious litigation.

FDSS was established in response to the pressing demands of numerous whānau going through the family separation process and the Family Court system alone. For several decades, many families have been imploring for assistance in handling their family separation and comprehending the intricacies of the current slow Family Court processes.

Regrettably, the recent reduction / unavailability of legal aid funding has resulted in even more individuals having to navigate their family court proceedings without adequate help or guidance. The accessibility to justice for these individuals is severely limited by the overwhelming nature of the Family Court processes, particularly for those who have never encountered them before. Many struggle to effectively represent themselves in court, further exacerbating their challenges and creates huge backlog in the Family Court System, which makes it really difficult for others who are in urgent need to access the system. 

We've been there .. We have done that....

Our experienced coaches offer parents invaluable and realistic insights into the family separation process and the process of the Family Court. Our coaches uses a very holistic approach filled with optimism, enthusiasm, and a positive energy that resonates with the many parents embarking on this challenging journey!

Promoting access to Justice

“A recent media article highlighted that legal aid shortfalls leave people forced to represent themselves in court. Many media articles have been published about the issues facing whānau dealing with the Family Court system. 

The issue of the lack of support for unrepresented families has persisted for decades and still not yet resolved. The fact that it is causing alot of harm on many families and children. The lack of support for these vulnerable families often exacerbates their parental conflicts and leads to a significant backlog in the system, family violence which often causes further undue delays in resolving their disputes.

Providing only court forms and applications to self-represented parties without guidance or help is deemed as providing parents access to courts, not access to justice or fairness. The Family court system is designed for and by lawyers not for non-lawyers parents who struggle to navigate or understand the system, while dealing with their family separation issues.”

FDSS plays a crucial role in bridging the access-to-justice gap through community-led services such as; one-on-one coaching support services and online workshops and virtual peer support groups

Why FDSS ?

For over a decade, our team of experienced coaches has provided assistance and support to hundreds and thousands of parents and families involved in parental disputes within or outside of the New Zealand Family Court system. FDSS coaches are not lawyers; rather, they are ordinary members of the community who possess extensive firsthand experience and knowledge of the family separation process and the Family Court, having navigated the system as self-represented litigants in their own cases is a very powerful tool. 

Drawing from our collective experience and the experiences shared by many whānau, we firmly believe that it is vital for parents to seek help and support from individuals who have personally gone through similar challenges. Our coaches approach their role with unwavering passion and are always willing to assist parents in understanding the separation process while providing guidance in their decision-making process during one of the most challenging periods in their lives.

Why do we exist ?

Dealing with family separation and the proceedings of the Family Court is often a complex and emotionally challenging journey, one that most individuals never anticipate, even if they have legal representation or moral support during the process. The processes within the New Zealand Family Court system are inherently adversarial and alienating in nature, combining legal and psychological elements in a sometimes contradictory manner. Furthermore, the Family Court system is burdened with a heavy caseload, resulting in slow processes that can prove exceptionally difficult for many parents to navigate, particularly when they are already coping with sudden lifestyle changes and various other associated stressors with Family separation.

Regrettably, throughout our extensive experience working with hundreds and thousands of whānau from all over the country, we have witnessed the devastating consequences faced by parents who have felt overwhelmed by the complexities of the Family Justice System. Some have tragically ended their lives, while others have struggled financially, emotionally, and even abandoned their children, finding it challenging to secure access to them or protect themselves. These difficulties often arise from a lack of knowledge and support understanding their rights and their children, lack of understanding how the Family Court system operates and the financial hardships associated with the process and many other factors. 

Our Goal

Children’s best interests come first..

Prevention is the Key !

“A strong fence at the top of the cliff is better than an ambulance at the bottom of the valley!”

Family separation and navigating the Family Court system can be an incredibly challenging and traumatic experience for many whānau. It can have severe detrimental impact on both the whānau and tamariki involved. FDSS main goal is to reduce or eliminate the harm of adversarial separation and prioritize the protection and support of whānau throughout various stages of their family separation journey. FDSS offers a comprehensive range of community-whānau focused services aimed at prevention and intervention in the following areas:

The struggle is real !

In 2008, a Principal Family Court Judge had called for more support and help for families going through the family court system . Also, another Judge had attacked the Family laws  which tended to alienate the parents, generally fathers, who had lost custody and the judge had highlighted that the family laws lacks in sophistication.

Additionally, the 2018/2019 findings of the independent panel who examined the 2014 changes of the family court were very concerning. First, the panel chairperson Ms. Noonan had called for an urgent change in the family court system and laws, also she mentioned that the current family court system “is not fit for purpose”, she also said that the same issues had been raised in 1987 and she was shocked that so little had changed and she heard from many people that they felt being treated as criminals in the family court. Many parents we’ve known ended their lives or abandoned their children after despair

New Zealand Family law is a matter of Social Justice

Based on the evidence, and the systemic delays occurring in New Zealand Family court system. FDSS team is constantly working to help accomplish change of the way how families’ disputes are dealt with in an adversarial, complex and expensive manner that is detrimental to our tamariki and their whānau. Our goal is primarily focused that whānau should be empowered to resolve their disputes amicably out of the court, unless there are serious health and safety concerns. 

As a part of our mission, our coaches are regularly involved in making submissions and petitions to the Parliament and the Government to support a better change to New Zealand Family Laws and to influence the Legislation passed by the parliament.

Diversity is our strength

FDSS deals with a wide range of parents and families, including mothers, fathers, step-parents, and grandparents from diverse cultural backgrounds and ethnicities residing in New Zealand. We understand and respect the varied cultural beliefs, values, and social structures of families in New Zealand.

Throughout the process, we always prioritize and consider the diversity of New Zealand families and family groups, as well as the specific needs, values, and beliefs of Māori as Tangata Whenua, Europeans, Pacific Peoples, Asian , Indian , African , Middle Eastern communities and various other ethnic and cultural groups within New Zealand. As we guide our clients through the journey, we assist them in preserving and strengthening the resilience and positive aspects of their family values in alignment with their respective cultures and beliefs.

Sound like something you want to be part of ?

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