Deb was admitted to the High Court of New Zealand as a Barrister and Solicitor in 1998. As a newly admitted lawyer Deb headed to rural New Zealand (the 'Big River Town' aka Balclutha to be specific) where she was thrown into appearing in the Criminal Court in week one of her new job. Unbeknownst to Deb, also appearing in court on her first day was one of her cousins on a DUI charge, making Deb's first appearance as counsel even more memorable. Not all the family are on the wrong side of the law though, Deb's father practised law for thirty odd years and six of her (female) cousins all completed law school around the time Deb did and are now practising around New Zealand and Australia.
After cutting her teeth in legal practice in the south, Deb moved to Dunedin where she continued to practise law focusing on employment, civil and family litigation. Deb later turned to specialise in family law, appearing in court to represent client's on cases involving; care of children disputes, paternity, adoption, testamentary claims, Hague Convention cases including inter country contact disputes and child abduction and complex relationship property division.
After a number of years in practice and feeling a bit disillusioned with the justice system, Deb took a break from law and instead worked in Human Resources for a nationwide outdoor retail chain in the position of National HR Manager.
In 2013 Deb found herself at a career cross road. The retail chain was being sold and she knew it was time to move on, but was it back to law or did she take a different path entirely? Law was the winner on the day and Deb returned to practice again with a primary focus on family law. It was to be an exciting time of change when Deb returned to law. In 2014 the New Zealand Family Justice System underwent significant reform and the out of court FDR mediation service was introduced. Deb chose to further develop her skills by training as a specialist mediator at that time.
In 2015, clearly being a sucker for punishment, Deb then applied to practice on her own account as a Barrister (which meant working for herself and her specialisation in litigation being recognised) whilst concurrently embarking on a PhD in Law. Deb has always held a strong sense of wanting social justice for children, who she believes are often silenced during and can have their needs overlooked when their parent's seperate and engage in conflict.
Deb's Thesis topic was: Children’s Participation Rights within the Context of the New Zealand Family Justice System. Deb's PhD was submitted in December 2019 and her PhD exam passed in early 2020. As a result of her research she has appeared in London to speak at the International Centre for Family Law Policy and Practice Conference and in Wellington at the New Zealand Law Society Family Law Conference.
Deb is an accredited NZ Law Society Family Specialist Mediator and a member of the New Zealand Family Law Section.
Deb is also a committee member of the Children’s Rights Alliance Aotearoa New Zealand (CRAANZ) an alliance that reports directly to the UN Committee of the Child on the New Zealand Government’s implementation of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC).
Qualifications and Affiliations
PhD in Law: Thesis topic, Children's participation in the context of the New Zealand Family Justice System
Postgraduate Diploma (with distinction) in Child Centred Practice
BA LLB Otago University 1997
New Zealand Law Society (NZLS) accredited Family Specialist Mediation Panel Member
Barrister of the High Court of New Zealand
Member of the NZLS and NZ Family Law Section
Speaker at the International Centre for Family Law Policy and Practice Conference, London 3-5 July 2019. Paper presented, Children’s Participation in Private Law Disputes: A New Paradigm.
Speaker at the New Zealand Family Law Conference, Wellington 7-8 November. Paper presented, Children’s Participation in Private Law Disputes, the Purpose and Process.
New Zealand Family Law Journal Vol 8 Issue 4, December 2014, Literature review: A comparison of child inclusive and child focused mediation models, their benefits and relevance in the context of family law practice in New Zealand.
NZFLS Family Advocate Vols 16/17/18/19 Issues 2-5, September 2014- 2015 Comparing mediation models (four part series)