New act aims to make ‘McDonald’s dads’ history
Chief Family Court Judge Peter Boshier says judges will interpret the new Care of Children Act to give both parents “optimum good quality time” with their children when the parents separate.
The new law also gives children the right to their own lawyers in separation tussles, gives grandparents and others in the wider family the right to seek parenting orders in the children’s interests, and opens Family Courts to the media.
Judge Boshier said a wording change from “custody” to “day-to-day care” of children meant both parents were now expected to exercise more parental responsibility.
“We have had too many parenting arrangements where one parent has not been parenting as much as they should,” he said.
“I think there will be a change in our attitude to the extent of the time that children will spend with each parent.
“It hasn’t been unusual for one parent to have custody the greater bulk of the time and the other simply to have ‘access’.
“Our thinking now is that may have been historically acceptable, but is no longer necessarily tenable.
Judge Boshier said the changes would reinforce the goal of reaching agreement without the need to go to court.
The Care of Children Act also gives judges a new power to jail parents who breach Family Court orders for up to three months, and increases the maximum fines to $2500.
Auckland District Law Society family law spokesman Stuart Cummings said the law change was “a watershed and an opportunity to do things differently”.