The Psychologists Board was approached by psychologists working in the Family Court with concerns about some important (and very unfortunate) changes to the Care of Children Act (CoCA). The changes give the court discretion to allow a second psychologist access to a report writer?s notes when a lawyer is preparing for cross-examination. This goes well beyond what is currently covered in the Family Court?s Practice Note and has clear implications for psychologists, who will now need to include an appropriate caution regarding this limit to confidentiality when seeking informed consent.
Representatives of the Board, NZCCP and NZPsS met with Principal Family Court Judge Laurence Ryan on 26 June to discuss these concerns. The Judge clearly appreciated the ramifications of these changes, which are likely to include increased costs, process delays, more challenges and complaints, increased risk of harm to children and family relationships, and further disincentives for practitioners to work in this important area.
A background paper has been prepared to inform other key officials (including the Minister of Justice) of our concerns and to request a change to the legislation. A copy of the paper can be downloaded here. Until a change to the CoCA is achieved, however, practitioners should bolster their informed consent processes and should also carefully consider the ethics and implications of taking on assignments that require them to receive and review another psychologist?s notes. We anticipate that the Court will continue to consider the welfare and best interests of the children involved to be the paramount consideration in deciding whether or not to release a psychologist?s notes and/or to attach clear and protective conditions to the release.