Submission to the Family Court (Supporting Children in Court) Legislation Bill

Submission to the Family Court (Supporting Children in Court) Legislation Bill

INTRODUCTION:

We believe it is very important for the Justice Committee to understand the reality and hypocrisy of the family court, before reading our submission on the proposed amendments. The information provided in this submission are based on facts, many families’ real stories , studies, research, and literature from New Zealand and Overseas.

We would like to highlight that New Zealand Family court system is a dysfunctional broken system since it was created in the 80’s and the same issues had been raised in the 80’s but so little has changed.

The family court system is doing more harm than good on our Families and the children in particular. We also agree that the system is somehow helping some other children and families.

Some of the findings of the final report of the Independent Panel which examined the 2014 family justice reforms. Ms. Rosslyn Noonan the chairperson of the Independent Panel said to the media as follows: 1

“The current Family Court was “no longer fit for purpose”.

“Ms. Noonan said: holistic change to the family justice system was a matter of some urgency. She said the same issues had been raised in 1987 and she was shocked that so little had changed.”

Ms. Noonan said, “we did hear from people, who told us that they actually never been in a court before. The experience of being in the family court “felt like being made like criminals.”

In year 2004, Judge Jan Doogue told the media that; 2

“Some children’s relationships with their parents are destroyed unnecessarily by inflexible family laws.”

“Family laws introduced in year 1994 lacked the sophistication needed today. She also said that the family laws are “social experimentation”.

“The laws – the Domestic Violence Act and section 16B of the Guardianship Act – tended to alienate the parents, generally fathers, who had lost custody”.

“Parents who lose custody, generally fathers, tend to be isolated. Banned parents can go for months without seeing their children”.

The Principal Family Court Judge Peter Boshier, in a speech delivered in Blenheim, New Zealand in 2009: 3

“He has called for more mental health support for people involved in Family Court cases after finding 18 suspected suicides by people involved in the court in the 13 months to June 2008”

” He identified 22 people involved in Family Court cases who died between May 2008 and June this year as a result of either suicide or homicide.

“I feel for people that use our courts who eventually cannot cope and take their own lives. I am not only sad for them personally, but for the children they leave behind,”

1 https://www.nzherald.co.nz/nz/family-court-system-not-fit-for-purpose-and-needs-urgent-change-paneltells-justice-minister/MA3GKNMW3NYZPVADMOPJ3QXT5Y/

2 https://www.nzherald.co.nz/nz/judge-attacks-family-court-laws/6GNMMBVOJQKHZK6U7DB6R443OY/

3 https://www.nzherald.co.nz/nz/judge-links-suicides-to-family-break-ups/Z4H7FX2BLJ2NIFB4KIVBHR7RRQ/

The major changes in the family court processes were made to the family justice system in 2013/2014 by the previous government were solely made for budgetary purposes and did not improve the efficiency of the family justice system nor helped families and children in resolving their disputes. Additionally, the costs of running the family court have increased dramatically since the reform were done.4

DISSCUSSION:

Without a doubt, we agree that the proposed Family Court (Supporting Children in Court) Legislation Bill is very partially crucial to support children involved in the family court proceedings. In broad terms the current family court flawed processes and delays are destroying many children’s relationships with their parents and the extended families.

The proposed bill is only covering a small proportion of the recommendations highlighted in the final report of the Independent Panel which examined the 2014 family justice reforms in 2018.

Despite of having many adequate laws and the numerous reviews, reforms, studies and amendments which happened in the past four decades. The system has not worked efficiently and adequately according to the laws in place. It remains that the main issue arises in those laws implementation in the broken family court system. Poor implementation of laws often leads to inefficiencies and injustice in our society. Most of the existing laws are outdated, flawed and open for misinterpretation.

In a nutshell, many people are failing to protect their children through the system and the vast majority affected are the alleged parties and children. The alleged persons have to wait up to 4 or 5 years to be heard and for their court cases to be concluded. Also, during the process and the prolonged waiting periods. The parties involved often initiate many other applications due to their frustration and resentment, which would inflame the conflict and adversely impact on the children involved.

“What they are dealing with is “families and children’s lives and such important issues should not be taken lightly.

This is how the system processes are abused by many parents for wrongful purposes

4 https://www.rnz.co.nz/news/national/386155/family-court-s-lawyer-spend-rises-despite-cost-cuttingreforms

“To win a child custody case and remove the children from the other parent’s care, you almost have to create a case that the other parent is a bad and violent based on hearsay / no evidence or fabricate evidence, even though you may not believe that to be true.”

Many parents are pushed beyond their breaking point. Often, they have no choice only to end their lives or abandon their children due to their struggles dealing with the complex expensive slow family court system. Also, hundreds and thousands of people struggle to get access to their children after waiting for lengthy periods of time. We have known some of those parents who ended their lives due to the traumatic and inhumane treatment by the flawed family court system 5.

Being mindful that the issues are larger than those proposed amendments in this bill. the Family Court processes, and ‘the system’ in general, exacerbates and inflames conflict between the parties involved and the most effected by this conflict are the children involved. Many people are dismayed that, the system rather than helping and protecting children, they found the Family Court to be abusive, unsafe, and harmful to them and their children.

Once I met a Family Deputy Court Registrar, who has been working in the court for the past 15 years. I had a quick chat with him and asked him, “I just want to know where the problem is”? He told me “The system and laws are ok, but the main issue is with the people working in the system and the Judiciary Officers”. We have attended many court hearings and observed the processes during the court hearings. The approach and the way hearings are convened are not “family or child focused” and very adversarial.

There is a need to remove the adversarial nature of the Family Court processes, laws and flawed prolonged practices, ‘the system’ in general, exacerbates conflict and inflame the litigation between parents. Some people who got involved in the family court proceedings often regret that they have involved their children in the family court proceedings, because they were not aware how bad is the system, in the first place.

We often say that;

“You will never understand how bad and dysfunctional the family court system, until you deal with it and experience it yourself”

5 https://www.facebook.com/FixNzFamilycourt.nz/photos/pcb.1796761733802730/1796760697136167

The family court processes are very damaging and whatever is mentioned in our submission is partially presenting some of the issues in the family court.

Additionally, the system is open for abuse. Many parents misuse the Family Court procedures maliciously for wrongful purposes such as securing financial independence, retaining solecare of the children, or harassing the other parent. We believe that the family court system allows parental alienation, perjury, false accusations, and financial and economic abuse without thorough investigations. We are concerned this causes the children to be abused and alienated, and results in breaking families apart, which is contrary to principles in the Care of Children Act 2004 that the child’s welfare and best interests are paramount, and that this is detrimental to the interests of our communities and families. A petition started this year asking to impose harsher sanctions on parents who abuse the court processes for wrongful purposes. The petition was signed by over 1000 people.6

Some of the major issues in the current family court as follows;

Perjury and False accusations are allowed and facilitated

The system uses “A one-size-fits-all” approach.

The Family court system is adversarial in nature

Parental alienation is allowed and not investigated thoroughly. 7

Presumption of guilt in the Family court.

The system is open for misuse and any party of the court proceedings could

vexatiously litigate and harass the targeted party.

The New Zealand family court biased laws & processes and the injustice are one of the major drivers for:

High rates of suicide & self-harm

Fatherlessness & Poverty

Youth crimes & suicide

Jobs and careers loss

Financial Hardships & Bankruptcy

Basic Human rights violations

Parental Alienation / child estrangement

Child abuse and abandonment

Psychological & emotional traumas

Mental health illnesses

Most importantly, the systemic undue delays in resolving or determining matters in dispute is causing injustice and breaching people’s and children rights to justice. Somebody rightly said

6 https://www.parliament.nz/en/pb/petitions/document/PET_93108/petition-of-zayne-juma-sanctions-onparents-who-misuse

7 Parental alienation involves a child being influenced by a parent to reject or resist contact with the other parent for no good reason. The impact of the alienation can be detrimental and have devastating consequences on both the child and the targeted parent.

that ‘Justice delayed is Justice denied”. The delays can lead to degradation of evidence and can make a conflict worse which could be detrimental to the involved children’s best interests and wellbeing.

THE PROPOSED BILL:

In essence, the majority of the proposed ammendments are wirrten ensuring it meets the needs of those it serves in particular our vulenrable children. However, the main issue is the intrepretation and implementation of these proposed ammendments. We must retriate the system is adversarial and “A one size fits all system”. The services provided should be tailored according to each child, individual or families’ needs.

The Family justice system laws and processes lack of sophistication. The processes and laws are vague, outdated, fundamentally flawed and open for misintrpretation.

The majority of the lawyers, Judges and other associates are entrneched in an adverserial mindset, when dealing with family disputes and consequentley excaberate, rather than resolving families disputes and this is the main issue.

4 – SECTION 5 AMENDED (PRINCIPLES RELATING TO CHILD’S WELFARE & BEST INTERESTS)

The proposed amendment for this subsection is well written, however the main issue as discussed above. We have dealt with many cases where children were represented by lawyers who have a significant history encouraging parents for vexatious litigation in the family court.

In many instances, the children views are not investigated thoroughly nor considered, which is contrary to s6 of the Care of the children Act 2004.

Most especially, that many children views can be unduly influenced by a parent who has their own propaganda to either gain sole-care of the child/ren or enforce coercive control or gain financial independency and many other wrongful purposes. Those parents are often supported and encouraged in the family court proceedings. This sort of misconduct is relevant to the child’s best interest and is tantamount to child’s emotional and psychological abuse.

The majority of the lawyers for children and judges has no expertise or knowledge to deal with Parental Alienation. Also many just ignore the existence of parental alienation because they

claim that they are not well paid by the legal aid services or they might have many court cases to deal with, so they sweep it under the carpet.

Simply, the adversary nature of the family court system is all about creating a “Winner Vs Loser”, for the sake of the litigation to continue endlessly.

Dr. Warshak, a clinical and research psychologist and author who had done very enormous extensive studies and research about Parental Alienation. His work is well recognised in many family courts and universities worldwide. 8

He had emphasised in his research and study as follows; 9

Through a variety of tactics such as selective attention, repetition, intimidation, overindulgence, and suggestion, a parent can corrupt a child’s view of the other parent (Ceci & Bruck, 1995; Clawar & Rivlin, 1991; Gardner, 1998a, 1998b; Warshak, 2002a). Once a child forms a predominantly negative opinion of a parent, and particularly once this opinion is expressed publicly, it is liable to become deeply entrenched and highly resistant to modification even in the face of information that directly contradicts misconceptions (Festinger & Carlsmith, 1959; Jelalian & Miller, 1984; Ross, Lepper, & Hubbard, 1975; Schauss, Chase, & Hawkins, 1997).
On the other hand, some parents want to exclude the child’s voice because they know the child’s voice will add to the other parent’s argument. The fact that the child is suggestible, bribable or being manipulated does not mean that the child’s voice should not be heard.10

Also, Dr. Warshak clearly highlighted in his research as follows;

The basic pitfall of the empowerment rationale is that it fails to recognize the tension that exists between empowering children and placing them in the middle of their parents’ disputes. The more weight accorded children’s stated preferences, the greater the risk of children being manipulated or pressured by parents.
From the standpoint of developmental psychology, empowerment of children must be carefully tied to their level of maturity; giving children too much

8 Richard A. Warshak (born December 18, 1949) is an American clinical and research psychologist and author. He is best known for his research and advocacy in the areas of child custody, shared parenting, and he is one of the leading researchers of parental alienation in the context of divorce and divorce. His work is well recognised worldwide by many courts and government departments and universities.

9 Warshak, R. A. (2003). Payoffs and pitfalls of listening to children. Family relations, 52(4), 373-384.

10 Elrod, L. D. (2006). Client-directed lawyers for children: It is the right thing to do. Pace L. Rev., 27, 869.

authority can create excessive anxiety, a narcissistic sense of entitlement, and impaired relations with adults.

Ms. Dr. Megan Gallop, a New Zealand based researcher in the child’s psychology and development had emphasized in her research that;

Others view involving children in family decisions as placing them in a loyalty bind or as imposing unfair responsibilities that may burden (or provide) them with an inappropriate degree of power.11

Finally, it was also clear that not all children want to be heard or need to be heard and their wishes must also be respected. From a research perspective, this study provided additional knowledge to the limited body of research about these reports and the absence of children’s views and experiences with any family justice professional (Birnbaum & Bala, 2010; Birnbaum et al., 2011; Cashmore, 2003; Cashmore & Parkinson, 2008). Yet, there must also be an awareness of the intrinsic limitations of the Views of the Child reports as they may not reveal the true views and preferences of children who are subject to parental pressure or manipulation, or whose views may be changing.12

The lawyer of the children’s involved and other associates such as; psychologists and social workers must be mindful that some influences could impact on the involved child’s views and taken those views literally into account would be detrimental to the best interests and welfare of the child/ren’s involved.

We submit that there is a necessity for videotaping the interviews when the children’s views are obtained by the child’s counsel. Similar to how it is done with the police, Oranga Tamariki and other state agencies. Also, parents and guardians should be able to access those video recordings to help them present their case in the court proceedings.

We have been involved in a case, when a father had filed an application to initiate contact with his son, whom he hasn’t had any contact with him over two years. The lawyer of the child (who has over 20 years’ experience as a family lawyer) and the mother had subsequently filed a cross-application to dismiss the father’s application to have contact with

11 Megan M. Gallop et al., Children’s Involvement in Custody and Access Arrangements After Parental Separation

12 Birnbaum, R. (2017). Views of the child reports: Hearing directly from children involved in post-separation disputes. Social Inclusion, 5(3), 148-154.

his son. The lawyer of the child interviewed the child and asked him literally if he thinks that his father’s application should be dismissed or not.

Involving children in such decisions is inhumane and not a child-focused approach. It is very detrimental and a gruesome act. Children need a life without stress, they want to play and have fun and enjoy their childhood with their families and peers.

Be mindful that some children may have emotional and cognitive limitations that may negatively impact their ability to express themselves and they might not want to be pressured to express their views or it might cause them to be confused ot anxious to participate.

In summary, the majority lawyers are not trained nor qualified to deal with such matters in obtaining or assessing the children views nor qualified to understand child’s psychological and developmental needs nor to examine if the children views are influenced.

A New Zealand study has confirmed that Lawyers for the Child were appointed in 91% of the participants’ Family Court cases. Nearly half (47%) found this appointment unhelpful, and 30% found it helpful.13

We have observed many court decisions, where children are rejecting one of their parents unjustifiably. And the Judges still restrict contact between the child and her parent, without investigating the influence on the child’s views.

Recommendations:

We say that lawyer of the child involvement is unnecessary in childcare arrangements disputes, or at the least their title should be changed to a Lawyer to assist the court. They should not be involved in obtaining the children’s views. Alternatively, trained and professional psychologists should be the ones to do such work.

Lawyers should not be involved in child care arrangements disputes or at least should be trained or have extensive background in child’s psychology and development.

Without a doubt, the child’s views are a fundamental right, and her views should be ascertained and investigated by a person who is qualified and experienced in child’s psychology and development. Also, the child’s views should be examined whether her views are influenced by the other party of the proceedings.

13 PARENTING ARRANGEMENTS AFTER SEPARATION STUDY: EVALUATING THE 2014 FAMILY LAW REFORMS – Parents’ and Caregivers’ Perspectives – Research Summary June 2020

6 – SECTION 6 AMENDED (CHILD’S VIEWS)

We agree that this insert would help in determining what is best for the children. However, as we highlighted in this submission that the most important issue is the implementation and the interpretation of this subsection by the professionals involved.

Article 12(1) of the CRC recognizes the right of children capable of forming views to express those views in all matters affecting them, and directs that due weight be accorded those views, depending on the age and maturity of the child as well as the matter at issue.

Most importantly, those views should be obtained by professionals and should be done using a child focused approach away from any adversarial mindset. The paramount focus should be on the children’s safety, the consistency and continuity of their care and upbringing and their relationship with both parents and their extended families.

Recommendation:

We have raised our concerns about the implementation of this section, and we agree that it should pass.

5 – SECTION 5A AMENDED (FAMILY VIOLENCE TO BE TAKEN INTO ACCOUNT)

We wish to bring an important issue which is relevant to this section; that the majority of the Family Court Judges decisions and other associates are concluded using “better safe than sorry approach” in particular when dealing with the “Without notice applications process”. They do not rely on actual evidence similar to any court of law. Their decisions are sometimes based on assumptions and fabricated evidence or hearsay.

Without a doubt, there are many genuine family violence victims, however in many cases some parents are using the Silver Bullet Technique 14 after separation, which empowers them to retain the sole-care of the children and many other vengeful and wrongful purposes.

Many vindictive parents are well aware that the system is clogged and slow and that the delays would work in their favour. Also, they are aware that there are no consequences in providing

14 Its basically, any abuse allegation that is directed towards the other parent or party that includes physical, verbal, emotional, sexual abuse, or false sexual allegation towards one of the children. The latter is so effective that the alleged abuser usually loses all custody and visitation rights.

false information to the court when filing without notice applications. This issue was highlighted in the final report of the Independent Panel examining the 2014 family justice reforms; 15

101. We heard that people’s experiences of the Family Court and related services can be alienating and disempowering. Professionals raised concerns about how the behaviour of victims of family violence, usually mothers, may be misinterpreted when they are in a heightened state of distress. When experiencing extreme distress, some victim-survivors find it difficult to distinguish between fear and risk, and they may appear to be unreasonable, exaggerating, manipulative or destructive. We heard also about the distress experienced by parents, usually fathers, who lose contact with their children for long periods of time.

Recommendations:

We agree that this amendment should pass, taking into consideration that many of the Family Violence allegations in the family court are over-exaggerated or based on false accusations and fabricated evidence. The professionals involved often do not investigate the allegations thoroughly and that this technique is often used by many vindictive parents as a tool to retain the children in their sole-care and other wrongful purposes.

6 – SECTION 6 AMENDED (CHILD’S VIEWS)

We agree that this section to pass, we are concerned about the implementation of this section in the family court system.

7 – SECTION 7 AMENDED (APPOINTMENT OF LAWYER TO REPRESENT CHILD IN PROCEEDINGS)

The shortage of family court lawyers is at tipping point 16. We have dealt with hundreds of court cases and it is seldom for the court to appoint a child’s counsel taking into account the child’s personality, cultural background, training and experience. We believe that it is important but again, the main concern is to implement this section in the family court system.

15 https://www.justice.govt.nz/assets/Documents/Publications/family-justice-reforms-final-reportindependent-panel.pdf

16 https://www.nzherald.co.nz/hawkes-bay-today/news/hawkes-bays-diabolical-family-court-lawyershortage/A2KSV63PYGP5Z3P65NESHSBGI4/ –

https://www.stuff.co.nz/national/122086149/mothers-struggle-highlights-family-lawyer-shortage

And as we highlighted in our submission that the title of the lawyer of child should be changed to “lawyer to assist the court” instead of the lawyer of the child to avoid any misinterpretation.

Despite the necessity of this amendment, we do not see that it can be achieved and there are no trained or qualified lawyer with experience in child’s psychology and development, which is very crucial.

Recommendations:

And as we highlighted in our submission that the title of the lawyer of child should be changed to “lawyer to assist the court” instead of the lawyer of the child to avoid any misinterpretation. Any children’s views should be obtained by trained and qualified professionals in child’s psychology and development.

8 – NEW SECTION 7AA INSERTED (LAWYER APPOINTED TO REPRESENT CHILD MUST EXPLAIN PROCEEDINGS TO CHILD)

We believe that children should not be deeply involved in knowing about the court processes, because it would cause them to be confused and anxious. Again, we must reiterate the main issue in the implementation and interpretation of this section. The word “must” should be replaced by “may” depending on every child’s special circumstances.

We are concerned that explaining the proceedings to the child might put them in a position to align their views with one parent over another. We believe that the children should not be engaged in a such adversarial proceedings. Obtaining and investigating their views is quite sufficient for the court to determine the best care arrangements.

Dr. Megan Gallop, a New Zealand based researcher in the child’s psychology and development had emphasized in her research that;

Others view involving children in family decisions as placing them in a loyalty bind or as imposing unfair responsibilities that may burden (or provide) them with an inappropriate degree of power.17
Finally, it was also clear that not all children want to be heard or need to be heard and their wishes must also be respected. From a research perspective, this study provided additional knowledge to the limited body of research about these reports and the absence of children’s views and experiences with any

17 Megan M. Gallop et al., Children’s Involvement in Custody and Access Arrangements After Parental Separation

family justice professional (Birnbaum & Bala, 2010; Birnbaum et al., 2011; Cashmore, 2003; Cashmore & Parkinson, 2008). Yet, there must also be an awareness of the intrinsic limitations of the Views of the Child reports as they may not reveal the true views and preferences of children who are subject to parental pressure or manipulation, or whose views may be changing.18

9 – SECTION 7B AMENDED (DUTIES OF LAWYER WHEN GIVING ADVICE)

We must reiterate that; the system is adversarial, and many lawyers could easily coach their clients to abuse the court processes to avoid conciliation and drag out the proceedings. Also, the system processes are flawed and open for misuse, in particular that many parents are fabricating the Family violence allegations to get into the system for free legal fees and other wrongful purposes.

Recommendations:

Lawyers should not be involved in any proceeding in respect to Chid Care disputes. Alternatively, there should be a new Family Dispute tribunal led by psychologists, mediators, and counsellors to deal with the Child Care disputes. All domestic violence allegations should be dealt in the criminal court according to the Evidence Act 2006.

Establish an advocacy agency to help parents filing complaints against Family lawyers who do not promote conciliation or acting in contrary to the principles in this section.

11 – SECTION 11 AMENDED (DUTIES OF FDR PROVIDERS)

We agree that the children voice should be heard and taken into account during the FDR process, not in circumstances when the child’s views are influenced and when there is a need to be investigated whether they were influenced or not. The children views should not be determinative of the outcome but should be presented to the parties involved for consideration.

CONCLUSION

18 Birnbaum, R. (2017). Views of the child reports: Hearing directly from children involved in post-separation disputes. Social Inclusion, 5(3), 148-154.

In 2005 E.B v New Zealand, 19 the UNHRC considered that New Zealand had violated the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) because the father’s contact application had not been dealt with as fairly, inexpensively, simply, and speedily as is consistent with justice according to the laws.

Shockingly, 15 years ago the same issues which were addressed in E.B v New Zealand , which still exist up until today in New Zealand Family court and very little has changed.

Judge Jan Marie Doogue highlighted in her comments in 2004;

“Some children’s relationships with their parents are destroyed unnecessarily by inflexible family laws.”

“Family laws introduced in year 1994 lacked the sophistication needed today. She also said that the family laws are “social experimentation”.

“The laws – the Domestic Violence Act and section 16B of the Guardianship Act – tended to alienate the parents, generally fathers, who had lost custody”.

“Parents who lose custody, generally fathers, tend to be isolated. Banned parents can go for months without seeing their children”.

Very little has changed and still our families and children going through “social experimentations”. Families and parents are simply treated like lab rats.

Many reforms, studies and research were done in the past decades to change the system, but all failed. It is just a waste of time and adding burden on the taxpayers. Our government needs to listen to the court-users, parents, and the children’s guardians.

Families’ lives are at risk and many people and children are suffering in silence. The system is well due for an urgent thorough overhaul.

AN URGENT CHANGE IS NEEDED ! THE FAMILY COURT PROBES SUICIDE !

There is an urgent need to reform or abolish the current broken dysfunctional family court system and replace it with a more family and child-focused system.

The worst problem in the system are the undue systemic delays, which is contrary to s27 of the NZBORA and people’s rights to natural justice. The delays are eroding the public’s trust and confidence in the administration of justice in New Zealand.

19 E.B v New Zealand CCPR/C/89/D/1368/2005 [2005] – https://juris.ohchr.org/Search/Details/1333

It is a fundamental right that everyone is entitled for a fair hearing and natural justice, regardless. However, many family court users are waiting for months and years to be heard and to defend the allegations against them. Apparently, this sort of delays is resulting in the hearings to be unfair.

Justice delayed is justice denied

The systemic delays are impacting overall and are ultimately detrimental to the children involved in the proceedings. The system itself is alienating in nature. Many parents have to wait for several years to reunite with their children and this is causing them to be alienated from their parents and the extended families. The system delays work very well in the favour of the alienating parents to accomplish their missions to cut off the children from the other parent’s life. The family court’s alienating, and adversarial nature is contrary to the principles relating to child’s welfare and best interests according to section 4 and 5 of the Care of Children Act.

We submit that lawyers involvement in childcare arrangements disputes is unnecessary and inappropriate. To resolve such complex issues there is a need to establish Family disputes tribunal which consists of qualified psychologists, mediators and counsellors who have experience dealing with children and families. And that any family violence allegations should be dealt in the criminal court where a proper evidence is used in the court proceedings.

Also, we submit that the parliament should pass legislation enforcing a default legal presumption of 50/50 equal shared care for children as a starting point after a parental relationship breakdown, unless there is significant proven evidence, not based on assumptions, that such an arrangement would not be in the child’s best interests.

We believe that the child’s needs and special circumstances are paramount, and it’s a child right to spend equal time with both parents. We are concerned that either parent could abuse the court procedures by withholding the child in their care and making unjustified or false allegations of abuse against the other parent, who would then have to jump through hoops and suffer emotionally, financially, and psychologically to defend against the allegations, which may result in the child being alienated.20

#FixNzFamilyCourt.nz

20 https://www.parliament.nz/en/pb/petitions/document/PET_92978/petition-of-zayne-juma-default-5050- shared-care-for-children

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