The legislature yesterday enacted the Family Proceedings Act (家事事件處理法) to accelerate the pace of trials in family-related cases and protect disadvantaged women and children.
Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Legislator Pan Wei-kang (潘維剛) said the act was more progressive than similar acts in countries like Japan and Germany, mainly because it allowed for consolidation of trials of related offenses.
As an example, in line with the principle of consolidated trials, in proceedings for divorce, related cases such as child-rearing expenses and child custody may be jointly tried, to save the parties involved time and energy.
At present, trials in family--related cases are governed under the Civil Procedure Code (民事訴訟法) and Non-Contentious Case Act (非訟事件法).
Under the current system, a parent who rears a child after divorce must file a civil lawsuit for any child support that the defendant has failed to pay and must have a family proceedings court decision to force the defendant to pay maintenance.
Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) Legislator Huang Sue-ying (黃淑英) said the act was designed to protect the rights and interests of those who are disadvantaged in a marriage.
The act stipulates that proceedings in family courts be held in private and the decisions not be made public, except with the informed consent of all parties involved, Huang said.
Juveniles appearing in courts shall be accompanied by social workers and family courts shall conduct gender equality awareness programs for judges and staff to avoid gender-biased decisions, the act said.
The legislature also approved an amendment to the Consumer Debt Clearance Act (消費者債務清理條例) to ease restrictions on credit card debtors’ ability to negotiate debt settlement with lenders, which could affect about 850,000 credit card debtors who are trying to clear their debts.
Since the act was passed three years ago, only 24 percent of applications for debt repayment negotiations were approved, and only 10 percent of debtors were declared exempt from repaying their debts, DPP Legislator Chen Chieh-ju (陳節如) said.
“The act was not effective to facilitate debt settlements,” Chen said.
In Japan, 82 percent of debt repayment negotiations are approved, and the debt exemption rate for debtors is about 95 percent, Chen said.
KMT Legislator Hsieh Kuo--liang (謝國樑) said that under the amended act, courts shall rule in favor of debtors against banks as long as the debtors have regular incomes and are willing to repay the debts to the best of their abilities.