While political leaders in the U.S. often talk of reforming custody laws, New Zealand has already done it, reports Stuff. The idea of “custody” is being dropped in favor of ensuring quality “day-to-day care” and parental responsibility outweigh the notion of who has “control” over the child.
This means that New Zealand courts will be less in the business of worrying about which parent gets primary custody and instead require both parents to be as fully involved with the child’s upbringing as possible. The new law even gives children the right to hire an attorney to make sure their interests are represented.
Parents who seek custody in court will first have to learn at seminars how to minimize the impact of the divorce on their children. “If there is no indication of conflict, the effect on children is not great,” says Brian Gubb, who helped develop the seminars. “If there is conflict, there are enormous problems in the children.”
The Care of Children Act also gives judges the power to jail parents up to three months and fine those who violate the court’s orders by up to $2,500. This gives judges better tools to help parents who are wrongfully denied access to their children by angry former spouses. Hopefully, protections for spouses of abusers remain intact.
It remains to be seen whether the new laws will help. Much depends on how New Zealand courts interpret the Care of Children Act.
My biggest concern is that families will now have to absorb the cost of a third lawyer should a child seek one. As I’ve written in earlier posts, one of the biggest problems with modern divorce is that both parents are often left financially damaged by exorbitant attorneys’ fees.
But give New Zealand credit – at least it is serious about trying to fix the child custody mess of this generation.