Shared Parenting Campaign

The Shared Parenting Bill

Shared Parenting Campaign website: (link)  

Guardianship Act Review


Laila Harre's speech at the first reading of the Shared Parenting Bill: "I have to say that if there is a desire to have the primary care-giving tasks, which is what this bill is about, equally distributed after a separation, then the work to share parenting must begin a long time before a separation... As I have said earlier, if we want to share parenting when it all busts up, we have to make a lot more effort to share parenting much earlier in the relationship. Then, in fact, the courts are far more likely to see a shared parenting role as being in the best interests of our children." (link)

Citizen's Initiated Referendum Launched on Aug 25th 2000 The wording  has been decided, it reads: "Should the Shared Parenting Bill introduced by Dr Muriel Newman (which creates a presumption that parents who are separated or divorced will have equal rights to custody of their children) be passed by Parliament?" We will soon have the forms and more information. We would like the support of your people to launch the CIR collectively next week. (more) 15th August 2000.

Separated Fathers Support Trust has been advised that the Social Services Select Committee will hear submissions following Parliament accepting our petition for change to family law. Submissions will be taken at the same time for Bruce Cheriton's Shared Parenting Bill. This is the time to stand up and be counted. Those who can assist please get in touch urgently. (more) 22nd June.

Citizen’s Initiated Referendum Muriel Newman says: "Shared Parenting is now firmly on the political agenda. Under a National-ACT Government, I am confident that Shared Parenting will become law, and I am personally committed to doing whatever I can to achieve that outcome. Tim Hawkins, of Waitati is sponsoring a Citizens Initiated Referendum on Shared Parenting. His question will ask "that Dr Muriel Newman’s Shared Parenting Bill become law". Submissions on the actual wording of the question can be sent to the Clerk of the House at Parliament before June 23rd. After that, the Clerk and Tim will agree on the final wording, and the CIR will be launched. Tim will need all of the help he can get to collect 250,000 signatures within a 12 month period. I will do whatever I can to support Tim. If you are prepared to lend a hand, please either let Kath my secretary know, or contact Tim directly at PO Box 521 Dunedin". Phone 03 4749697 Fax 03 4776560 Email [email protected] Shared Parenting Update (link) 20th June.

Shared Parenting Bill Debate - Hansard The Shared Parenting Bill debate in Parliament on 10 May 2000 established that the rights of children, the family and fathers have now become major political forces in New Zealand. We have watched the Parliamentary debates on family law for a decade, and women’s rights have dominated them. The debate on 10th May which changed all that is at last available online (link). It contains some very important policy statements. We must build on the huge momentum that has been achieved. The Government may have killed the Shared Parenting Bill for now but the topic of shared parenting is well established, and will not go away. Experience in the USA and Europe has shown that given active support, the move to shared parenting is unstoppable. Bruce Tichbon 3rd June.

Citizens Initiated Referenda on Shared Parenting Your urgent assistance is required. A Citizens Initiated Referenda has been initiated. The question proposed to be put to voters is “Should Dr. Newman’s Shared Parenting Bill be made law in the family court?” Submissions are currently being called on the wording of this proposal. 31st  May.

First Step To Shared Parenting Referendum Tim Hawkins, spokesman for the Dunedin group ‘The Child’s Right to be Mothered and Fathered’, has lodged a proposal with the Clerk of the House to promote a petition for a referendum on shared parenting. (link) 26th May.

March for Fathers & Families Almost 40 people met in QE ll Square at 9.45am and marched up Queen St to Aotea Square, promoting shared parenting and Family Court reform. Warren Heap from the Separated Fathers' Support Trust issued a media statement calling for family law practices to change to recognise value of fatherhood 20th May.

The Green Party recognises the frustrations which many parents, mainly fathers, are facing in trying to secure adequate custody arrangements following a family break-up. With this in mind, Green Party MP, Sue Kedgley, sought assurances from the Labour Party for a review of Family Court procedures. 17th May.

Courses for separating parents "It is often claimed that our society is guided by the principle of 'the best interests of the children'. If this is so, then it should be reflected in efforts to maintain children's ongoing close and effective relationships with both their parents. This affords the children the benefits not only of two parents, but also of both extended families. One simple indication of this intent would be parenting courses for parents who live apart." Stuart Birks. Interesting new site.(link)16th May.

Children and families central to Govt. policy agenda The International Day of Families provides New Zealanders with an opportunity to celebrate the growing diversity of the family says Social Services and Employment Minister Steve Maharey. "The days when the 'family' meant 'mum, dad and the kids' are long gone." (link)14th May.

Shared Parenting debate in the House In a move that clearly showed this new government cares little about children or families, they, along with the Greens and New Zealand First, voted down my Shared Parenting Bill last Wednesday night. Labour denied leave for a conscience vote. They also denied leave for a spilt vote.However, in a move that was quite unprecedented the whole House and visitors’ gallery applauded my final rebuttal speech for over two minutes, which signalled to me that although the Bill was voted down for political reasons, it does have a great deal of personal support amongst individual Members of Parliament. Dr Muriel Newman MP (more)12th May. 

Shared Parenting Bill defeat stifles debate The Parliamentary vote on the Shared Parenting Bill took place on Wednesday 10th May.  Labour, Alliance, Greens, and NZ First rejected the bill while Act and National supported it. Muriel Newman still holds hope for the future of Shared Parenting. The petition has been sent to the Social Service Select Committee, which has almost no work on at present. Newman says "The idea that children whose parents separate or divorce should enjoy the continuing support of both the mother and the father must become the basis of family law in New Zealand. To maintain sole custody as the predominant outcome of family breakdown will simply assure that more and more children will fail to reach their potential. (link) Auckland National MP Belinda Vernon said the defeat of the Shared Parenting Bill in Parliament  just reiterates the Labour/ Alliance 'we know best' approach to government. "I have been overwhelmed by the number of parents, particularly fathers, and grandparents who have expressed their helplessness and frustration with the inadequacies of the present system.(link) Christian Heritage Party Leader Graham Capill was critical of the Government’s refusal to allow even a conscience vote on it. “As a pastor and as a politician I have dealt with many men (in particular) who wish to take a more active role in parenting, but are prevented from doing so by court orders and welfare agencies. Far from discouraging such parenting, the law needs to be changed to encourage it." (link) 11th May.

Review of guardianship and family policy Attorney-General Margaret Wilson and Social Services and Employment Minister Steve Maharey announced that the Guardianship Act, including related family policy, is to be reviewed by the Government. A discussion paper will be issued mid-year inviting public responses, which will close in early November. (link) Green MP Sue Kedgley congratulated Muriel Newman for bringing this issue before Parliament. "We agree with aspects of the Shared Parenting Bill which seek to address a real problem in society - alienation of children from non-violent natural parents. Many non-custodial parents, and especially fathers, find it very difficult, and sometimes impossible, to obtain frequent and regular access to their children." (link)  A petition with over 4,000 signatures requesting a concience vote was presented to ACT MP Muriel Newman by Bruce Cheriton on the steps of Parliament on Wednesday afternoon. (link)10th May.

Shared Parenting Bill will test government’s credibility. FARE spokesman Darryl Ward said: " It is a travesty that last week the Matrimonial Property Amendment Bill, one of the government’s pet pieces of legislation, was allowed a conscience vote. If the Shared Parenting Bill was allowed a conscience vote it would certainly be passed to the select committee stage, where ordinary New Zealanders would at last be able to have their say. It seems dividing up the cutlery and linen after a separation is more important to the government than the welfare of our children and families.” 9th May.

A Child's Right To Both Parents It is on the basis of what can only be described as misinformation, that the Government has signalled its intention not to support my Shared Parenting Bill, which is currently before the House, to a Select Committee. At the same time as they plan to kill the Bill that ensures the rights of children come first when couples separate, the Government plans to send to a Select Committee a Bill that deals with the division of property when couples separate. Not only that, but they intend to give Members of Parliament a conscience vote on the Matrimonial Property Bill, while rejecting a call for a conscience vote on the children's bill.   Sadly, indications are that this is a Government that, when a couple separates, values the welfare of fridges and washing machines over the welfare of children. Murial Newman. (link) 2nd May.

Law Society Out Of Touch The Society's Family Law Section must be completely out of touch to suggest that Dr Muriel Newman’s Shared Parenting Bill is misconceived and fundamentally flawed. Perhaps the real reason why the Law Society is so opposed to this Bill is that they fear loss of work for lawyers if families are encouraged to work out their own solutions.” (more) 31st April.

Lawyers don't like bill The Family Law Section of the NZ Law Society considers the Shared Parenting Bill, now due to be introduced into Parliament on 10th May this year, is misconceived and fundamentally flawed.(link) 26th April.

Rebels Promote Parenting Petition Youth group Prebble's Rebels are giving their support to a petition calling for a conscience vote on Dr Muriel Newman's Shared Parenting Bill. (link) 23rd April.

Women's Affairs Minister Laila Harre’s most bizarre claim is that the New Zealand model of custody laws is ‘highly regarded overseas’. We must ask by whom! After all, New Zealand surely has amongst the worst family law in the world. We have the worst death rate for children under one year, the second highest rate of sole parent families in the industrialised world, the worst youth suicide rate and one of the worst teenage pregnancy rates. Overseas research clearly links such social disasters to children only having one parent.”(more) 18th April.

Fathers getting off scot free Fourteen thousand domestic purposes beneficiaries cannot or will not name the father of their child. Associate Social Services Minister Ruth Dyson suggests: "There are some obvious reasons, like the woman may be a victim of rape or incest. I mean, tragically, there are more incest cases than I guess most of us would like to consider in New Zealand." (link) 12th April.

Shared Parenting Bill Debate The Bill is now almost certain to be debated on 10th May. The delay is good news because it gives us more time to generate support for the Bill. The Shared Parenting Bill hangs in the balance. It has many detractors but their arguments are superficial, and their objections can be proven to be incorrect. (more). 9th April.

The Welfare of Children - In New Zealand, Who Cares? Governor-General, Sir Michael Hardie-Boys is right, a disaster is befalling the New Zealand family. Sadly, there are agencies and individuals, including lawyers, social workers, psychologists, counsellors and bureaucrats who benefit from the present preference for sole custody. They almost exclusively oppose separated parents being empowered by the Shared Parenting Bill to co-operate for the sake of their children, instead of being encouraged to fight over custody as they are at present. Are they more concerned about the welfare of children or their own jobs? (more) 2nd April.

'Please Consider the Children' Dr Newman says she has been surprised by the attitude of Labour and the Alliance who appear to be unwilling to support the Bill, saying they will instead do a review of the Family Court. She says: "While we would welcome such a review, I am concerned that it is a smokescreen to cloud the real issues of the rights of children to keep in contact with both parents - a right that is severely threatened under current family law practice." (more) 2nd April.

Shared Parenting Bill Will Fail in part because it requires realistic solutions to both the corrosive politics of domestic violence and the "fiscal responsibility" politics of child support. Keith Rankin. (link) 30th March.

Shared parenting Mr Maharey appears to be prejudging, rather than understanding, the issues, then seeking to wash his hands of them. (more) 28th March.

Loss of Children "When you lose a child you don't just lose that child, you lose an innocence. ... You lose an opportunity to put a Band-Aid on their knee, to cuddle them when they're hurt, to laugh at them and smile with them." (link) 27th March.

Shared Parenting Bill
will receive its first reading in Parliament on Wednesday 5th of April at 5pm. We know that Labour and Alliance will oppose the Shared Parenting Bill. NZ First and the Greens seem to be fence sitting. Act and National are in favour of the Bill. On current voting, it will be lost. (more) Women's Affairs Minister Laila Harré says: "The Bill demonstrates a lack of understanding about current legislation around custody, access and guardianship and is not backed up by evidence" (more) 27th March.

Shared Parenting Bill is postponed again. (more) The Government has decided not to support the Shared Parenting Bill promoted by ACT's Muriel Newman, Social Services and Employment Minister Steve Maharey said today.(more) However, it is being accused of using biased and hastily put together briefing papers from the Ministry of Women's Affairs to stop the Bill (link) New Zealand First says it will oppose the Bill if the Government guarantees it will make Family Law reform a priority. (more) 22nd March.

Women's Affairs Minister Laila Harré released briefing papers at a multi-party meeting of Women MPs that show the Shared Parenting Bill is unlikely to achieve its aim of improving the welfare of New Zealand children. (more) 21st March.

Please Actively Support the Shared Parenting Bill! This legislation is the most important family law that has been put before Parliament for decades.(more) 18th March.

Shared Parenting Bill Lobbying efforts are still needed (more) 13th March.

Shared Responsibility; Negotiated No-Fault Custody Muriel Newman should be congratulated for her shared parenting bill, presented to Parliament last week. An Act MP, she is entering into a minefield of family and gender politics, which means that the bill will probably fail. Keith Rankin. (link) 9th March.

Shared Parenting Gaining Strong Backing A Bill to put children's needs first when parents separate is gaining strong support within the community and its sponsor, ACT's Muriel Newman, says the next three weeks are critical to the Shared Parenting Bill making it to a Parliamentary Select Committee. The Bill was due to be debated by Parliament for the first time last night but will now be heard on Wednesday March 22. (link) 2nd March.

Children’s rights upheld at last  “The right of children to receive love and care from both of their parents, as guaranteed under the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of the Child, will become a reality if the Shared Parenting Bill is passed into law”, Families Apart Require Equality (FARE) spokesperson, Darryl Ward, said today.(more) 29th Feb.

A Private Member’s bill on Shared Parenting, sponsored by Dr Muriel Newman of ACT, has been drawn from the ballot. This means it will be debated in Parliament on 1st March 2000. THIS BILL NEEDS THE ACTIVE SUPPORT OF YOU/YOUR ORGANISATION PLEASE! (more) 18th Feb.

Action Information:

Guardianship Act Review info: (here) Note: submissions to the Discussion paper "Responsibilities for Children - Especially when parents part" are due by the 30th of November 2000.

Join the very active NZ Fathers' Voter Lobby e-mail list for news and discussion (link)

Join the Paul's News e-mail list. You are welcome to post your own messages to this list on any matters relating to family issues - whether that be on political issues, seeking personal advice from others on the list or to offer your own advice for others' benefit, etc.(link).

Help get signatures for the referendum -contact The Child’s Right to be Mothered and Fathered group. Shared Parenting Campaign website: (link) An 0900 number will soon be available and an office is being set-up. Appoint representatives and spokespeople for your areas. Those willing to assist please contact Martin James Crosbie:
Fax (03) 4530667
Home Phone (03) 4530667
Cell phone (025) 6160220
E-mail: [email protected]

Muriel Newman is putting out Shared Parenting Bulletins on a regular basis, to let people know how things are going. Check out updated information on the Act website: (link)
Contact [email protected] with e-mail addresses, or fax Act on 04-473-9366 with fax details.

Muriel Newman's Shared Parenting Bill is (here).

FAQs on the bill (here).

Read the Hansard record of the 10th May Parliamentary debate  (link).

E-mail Members of Parliament - addresses (link).

Information on Family Court (here).

The Guardianship Act, including related family policy, is to be reviewed by the Government. A discussion paper will be issued mid-year inviting public responses, which will close in early November. (link).

Feedback Requested on  Status Of NZ Children The Ministry of Youth Affairs has compiled a draft report on New Zealand's performance in relation to United Nations Convention of the Rights of the Child (UNCROC)  since 1995. "In order to complete this draft the government needs feedback from groups and individuals around the country that are working to improve the rights and wellbeing of children,"  says Youth Affairs Minister Laila Harré. (link) Feedback and comments must reach the Ministry by July 15, and a full copy of the draft report is available on the Ministry of Youth Affairs website, 18th May.

Keep in touch with Muriel Newman "I will be putting out Shared Parenting Bulletins on a regular basis, to let people know how things are going. Once the government’s intentions with regard to the family law reviews is clear, I will be up-dating progress on that as well. In the meantime, we need electronic contact details for everyone interested in this issue – please contact my secretary:
[email protected] with e-mail addresses, or fax us on 04-473-9366 with fax details."

Stuart Birks has updated his web page on the shadow of the law. It now includes a description of a simple experiment he used in a seminar to the Wellington branch of the Law and Economics Association plus related material. This is an easy way to demonstrate flaws in the case against the bill, as is also explained. You can see the information here: (link).

Mothers Are Responsible for "ONLY" 55% of Child Killings! Check out the USA Fathers' Manifesto (link)

Statistics Canada reports that of children 0 - 11 years of age in B.C., 16.4 % live in single mom homes and only 1.5 % with single dads. That is a factor of TEN times as many mothers as dads getting the kids. The Divorce Act and the Family Relations Act are gender neutral. Judges, politicians and administrators tell an increasingly inquiring press that there no longer is any gender-bias in the courts. Parents - particularly fathers - and family lawyers know otherwise. Vancouver lawyer Carey Linde argues that British Columbia courts can do a lot better for children by putting dad back in their lives - not in the token form by making him a visitor every other weekend and a weekday supper ( or even two weekday suppers ) - but actual and meaningful co-parenting. (link).


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Frequently Asked Questions about the Shared Parenting Bill

Shared Parenting – an idea whose time has come.

1. Will the Shared Parenting Bill force me to share the children equal time with my ex-partner? - No, not at all. The idea is that equal sharing is the notional starting point, but parents are given complete freedom to work out their own parenting plan which suits their needs and the children’ s needs.

2. What if my ex-partner is violent? - The Shared Parenting Bill continues all the safeguards and protections of the present law to ensure children and partners are protected from unfit or violent parents and ex-partners.

3. But isn’ t Shared Parenting just the same as Guardianship? - No, Guardianship is the right to have a say in the upbringing of the children, but effectively a sole custodian has all the power over the children. Judge Inglis, a prominent New Zealand judge, has said that, "a parent who is deprived of the right to custody is in reality left with only the shell of guardianship". Shared Parenting aims to give the natural parents equal power, and to encourage them to use that power in the best interests of the children.

4. What is missing from New Zealand’ s family law, why do we need this Bill? – There are three vital social policies missing from our current family law that this Bill will fix. Firstly, this Bill will make mothers and fathers notionally equal parents. Secondly, it will make the two-parent family the basis for the care of children in preference to the sole parent family. And thirdly, it will provide greater incentives for parents to work cooperatively with each other for the sake of their children.

5. Will sole custody still be possible under preferential Shared Parenting? - Yes it will be, but Shared Parenting will be the first choice.

6. But is the welfare of children protected by Shared Parenting? - Absolutely. Shared Parenting assumes that in the majority of cases having frequent and ongoing contact with both the mother and the father best protects the welfare of the children.

7. But who will be the primary care giver? - There is no primary care giver with Shared Parenting, both parents are equal " shared custodians" . The concept of primary care giver was created under the old sole custody system to try to decide which parent would be the sole custodian.

8. What does a typical parenting plan look like? - There are dozens of ways parents can share the care of the children to fit in with the parent’ s work and living patterns. If you live in the same town, you might decide with your ex-partner for example, that the children spend Monday through Friday of each week with you while your ex-partner works normal job hours. Your ex-partner would have them from Friday night to Monday morning so you can do shift work over the weekend and get a better hourly rate of pay.

9. What if my ex-partner and I can’ t agree a parenting plan? - Shared parenting will be the fall back option. It won’ t be an option for one parent to veto shared parenting, otherwise you are effectively back to the sole parenting system again.

10. I might have to change my job or hours of work to be a shared parent? - Yes, Shared Parenting gives you that option. It is your choice to change your work patterns following a divorce, and choose more time with your children.

11. It seems best with shared parenting that my ex-partner and I live close to each other. – Yes, it is a very good plan to have mum’s house, dad’s house and the children’s school all close to each other. Then the children can freely move between the three locations without any travel issues.

12. My ex-partner has given me a lot of flak. Isn’ t this Bill just going to give more power to my ex-partner to abuse me? -Shared Parenting significantly reduces the amount of arguing between parents by stopping the desperate win/lose battle over who is going to be the sole custodian. It also encourages both parents to work together, caring for their children. But in the small percentage of cases where a parent simply can’ t let go of the fighting, then there is still the full protection of the domestic violence legislation, and the provision to downgrade the argumentative parent to be a non-custodial parent.

13. Has Shared Parenting been tried overseas and does it work? - Shared Parenting has been very successful in the USA and many European countries. It has been shown to improve the welfare of children, significantly reduce arguing between parents (and their legal bills) and improve child support compliance.

14. But children need the stability of one home! - Children have a great need for the stability of contact with both their natural parents. If you ask those children who have one parent and one home, if they would rather have both parents and two homes, the vast majority will choose two parents. Grown ups that have experienced shared parenting as children say almost without exception that they wouldn’ t have had it any other way. Further, children are adaptable, and easily handle having multiple care givers at school, sports, friends places as well as one or two homes. Children of parents who work have a school, creche and home, which are equivalent to a school and two shared parenting homes.

15. You can’ t force parents to cooperate if they don’ t want to. – There will be a small proportion of cases that need to be decided by the Family Court, but experience shows it is less than 10% of cases. The reason Shared Parenting is so successful at reducing arguments between parents is because a parent is likely to be demoted by the Family Court to be a non-custodial parent if they are uncooperative. Under the old sole parenting system, parents had an incentive to fight, because a parent needed to be combative to win sole custody. Experience overseas is that shared parenting greatly reduces arguing between parents and halves the number of ongoing court appearances.

Dr Muriel Newman MP Social Welfare Spokesman, ACT

Office: +64 4 4706633; Mobile: +64 25 774 834

For more information contact:

Trish Sherson: Office: +64 4 4706644; Mobile: +64 25 570 803 [email protected]

Visit ACT online at:


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Shared Parenting debate in the House

12th May 2000
Dr Muriel Newman MP for ACT New Zealand

In a move that clearly showed this new government cares little about children or families, they, along with the Greens and New Zealand First, voted down my Shared Parenting Bill last Wednesday night. Labour denied leave for a conscience vote. They also denied leave for a spilt vote.

However, in a move that was quite unprecedented the whole House and visitors’ gallery applauded my final rebuttal speech for over two minutes, which signalled to me that although the Bill was voted down for political reasons, it does have a great deal of personal support amongst individual Members of Parliament.

But if they think they have killed the idea of shared parenting, they are wrong. Shared Parenting is not going to go away. Shared Parenting is an idea whose time has come. We will win a law change, it is just going to take a little longer than we had all hoped!

Shared Parenting Petition

The Shared Parenting petition enjoyed unprecedented support. Gaining almost 5,000 signatures in just over two weeks. It was an incredible effort by Bruce Cheriton, the huge team of people who want to see a change in the law, as well as our ACT members and supporters.

The petition has now been referred to the Social Services Select Committee for consideration, and I am hopeful that the petitioners will be able to come to the committee to present evidence on why they believe so strongly in the need for Shared Parenting. There is also a chance, of course, that the committee may want to do some more work on this issue.

What’s next?

There is a growing demand for a citizen’s initiated referendum on Shared Parenting. I will be seriously looking into this, next week. A referendum needs 250,000 signatures, but judging by the strength of support for the petition, I think that number of names could be collected in record time…it would need to be within four months to beat the fire-fighters!!!

Keeping in touch…

I will be putting out Shared Parenting Bulletins on a regular basis, to let people know how things are going. Once the government’s intentions with regard to the family law reviews is clear, I will be up-dating progress on that as well. In the meantime, we need electronic contact details for everyone interested in this issue – please contact
[email protected] (my wonderful secretary who many of you know) with e-mail addresses, or fax us on 04-473-9366 with fax details.

Hope to hear from you with contact details from family, friends and colleagues!

Thanks again for all of your help and support – we will not give up until we win!


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  Shared Parenting Bill

Dr Muriel Newman - 18th Feb 2000

Member’s Bill


Explanatory note

This purpose of this Bill is to significantly improve the welfare of children whose parents separate or divorce.

Children inevitably suffer when their parents elect to live apart. The continued absence of one parent is a major source of anguish in a child’s life which can be exacerbated by the competition between parents caused by custody and access inequalities.

Currently, the most frequent outcome for families when parents separate, is physical sole custody, whereby the children spend the majority of their time with one parent. The parent who gets sole physical custody effectively gains control of the children and hence commands a strong position in negotiations with the non-custodial parent for their relationship with the children..

Shared Parenting, as described in this Bill, has been highly successful in other western countries over the past two decades. It has been shown to improve the welfare of children, reduce arguing between parents, and improve cohesion of the two parent family unit.

Under Shared Parenting, the starting point is that both parents are equally important to the children and it is in the best interests of the children to spend equal physical time with each parent. Parents will be considered "joint custodians", and neither parent will be given a superior role to the other parent unless it is proven necessary.

The parents (or a judge, if one is involved) will be able to mutually agree to vary custody arrangements from the 50:50 split of time. Such changes should be the mutual decision of the parents, taking account of the needs of the children.

Unequal sole custody and other custody arrangements will continue to be options, but they will be ranked as lower alternatives. Alternatives will be considered if for example, one parent fails to cooperate with the other, if one parent tries to alienate the children against the other parent, or if one parent is deemed by a court to be unsuitable.

Government departments, and non-government agencies receiving government funding, will be required to actively promote Shared Parenting. Annual reports will be subject to parliamentary scrutiny to ensure proper compliance.

The use of false allegations by one party against another to win custody will not be tolerated. Any false allegations that are made knowingly will draw fines, court costs and possible downgrading of custody rights.

Government benefits will continue to be available to separating parents, but WINZ will be required to explore all viable options, such as placing both parents in the work force. WINZ will be required to consult both parents before a benefit is granted.

Government will be required to publish information describing the uptake and impact of the various custody arrangements.

New Zealand has a long tradition of gender equality, including equal voting rights, equal splitting of matrimonial property, and equality in education and the work force. Shared Parenting within the family unit is the only realistic long-term public policy option for New Zealand to adopt.



Dr Muriel Newman







1 Title 8 Penalties for non-co operation
2 Commencement 9 Parenting Plan
3 Purpose shared parenting 10 Mutually agreed variations to
4 Interpretation 11 Sole custody consideration
5 Priorities of custody 12 Promotion of shared parenting
6 Parental co operation 13 Court must state reason if it does
7 Domestic violence not award shared parenting 14 Publication of information


The Parliament of New Zealand enacts as follows:


1. Title – This Act is the Shared Parenting Act 2000.

2. Commencement – This Act comes into force on the day after the date on which it receives Royal assent.

3. Purpose – The purpose of this Act is to improve the welfare of children whose parents have separated, by bringing greater equality to the role of parents within the family unit by –

ensuring that minor children have frequent and continuing contact with both parents after the parents have separated or dissolved their marriage:

encouraging parents to share the rights and responsibilities of child rearing to effect this policy:

assuring parents to the greatest extent practical, an equal role in the physical and legal custody of their children.

4. Interpretation – In this Act, unless the context otherwise requires,-

Shared parenting means joint custody split equally (50:50) between the parents (or other parties)

Joint custody means joint physical and joint legal custody to both parents (or other parties), in such a way as to guarantee the child frequent and ongoing contact with both parents (or other parties)

Legal custody means the decision-making rights, responsibilities, and authority relating to the health, education and welfare of a child

Parental alienation means having the effect of denigrating or degrading a parent (or party) involved in custody issues, to the relevant children in custody

Physical custody means a minor child residing with, or under the care and supervision of a parent (or other party)

Sole custody means one parent (or other party) having physical and legal custody of a minor child.

5. Priorities of custody – Custody must be awarded in the following order of preference, according to the best interests of the child:

(a) Shared parenting by both parents:

(b) Joint custody to both parents:

(c) Sole custody to either parent:

(d) Equal joint, joint or sole custody to other parties.

6. Parental co-operation – An award of joint custody obligates the parents (or other parties) to exchange information concerning the health, education, and welfare of the minor child, and unless allocated, apportioned, or decreed, the parents or parties must work co-operatively and confer with one another in the exercise of decision-making, responsibilities and authority.

7. Domestic violence –

(1) In every proceeding where there is a

determination by the court that domestic or family violence has occurred, there is a rebuttable presumption by the court that it is detrimental to the child and not in the best interest of the child to be placed in sole custody or joint physical custody with the perpetrator of domestic or family violence.

(2) Despite the provisions in subsection (1), the judge must also take into account what, if any, impact the domestic violence had on the child.

8. Penalties for non-co operation – Any person who frustrates or attempts to frustrate (directly or indirectly) the custody or access of a parent or party, by any means including-

  1. preventing hand over of the children:
  2. parental alienation:
  3. knowingly making false allegations of sexual abuse:
  4. knowingly making false allegations of domestic violence –
  5. is liable to -

  6. a fine not exceeding $1000:
  7. the costs incurred by the aggrieved parent or party because of the non-co operation:
  8. in the case of a custodial parent or party, downgrading of joint custody rights to non-custodial status, or the removal of custody rights.

9. Parenting plan – If the court finds both parents are suitable parents it may, at its discretion, require the parents (or other parties) to submit an implementation plan for the custody order, or the parents acting individually or in concert may voluntarily submit a custody implementation plan.

10. Mutually agreed variations to shared parenting – Parents who have been granted shared parenting are free to mutually agree variations to the physical care arrangements as suits their personal and work situations.

11. Sole custody consideration –

In making an order for sole custody, the court must consider, among other factors, which parent is more likely to allow the child or children frequent and continuing contact with the non-custodial parent.

(2) The burden of proof that shared parenting would not be in the best interests of the child is on the parent requesting sole custody.

12. Promotion of shared parenting –

(1) Every department, Crown entity, and State enterprise within the meaning of:

  1. Schedule 1 of the State Sector Act 1988:
  2. Schedule 4 of the Public Finance Act 1989:
  3. Schedule 1 of the State Owned Enterprises Act 1986 –

and any organisation or body entering into a contract with a department referred to in paragraph a for the provision of goods or services must actively promote shared parenting as the preferred option where the activities of that department, Crown entity, State enterprise or organisation reflects or influences parental custody arrangements

(2) Every department, Crown entity, State enterprise or organisation to which subsection (1) applies, must include in its annual report, a statement of compliance with the provision of subsection 1

13. Court must state reasons shared parenting not awarded – If a court does not award shared parenting, then the reasons must be explicitly stated in the judgment.

14. Publication of information

(1) The Department of Courts must include in its annual report the following information:

  1. the outcomes of all custody court cases for the year:
  2. the different types of custody awarded:
  3. the reasons why shared parenting was not awarded:
  4. the number of custody cases in which accusations of sexual abuse or domestic violence were made:
  5. the gender of the parents or parties involved for each custody outcome:
  6. the number of cases in which accusations of sexual abuse or domestic violence were made, which also had custody implications which were not contested in court:

(2) At each national census, the Department of Statistics must ensure information is collected and published on the accumulated number of different custody arrangements in the community (both court awarded and non-court awarded), and the level of total benefits being paid.


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