Welfare of children not advanced by bill
Hon Steve Maharey
Minister of Social Services and Employment
Associate Minister of Education (Tertiary Education)
Minister for the Community and Voluntary Sector
MP for Palmerston North
22 March 2000
Welfare of children not advanced by Shared Parenting Bill
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.
Mr Maharey said that while the bill's stated objectives to promote fairness in child custody arrangements were laudable, it was unlikely that they would be realised or achievable through its provisions. The Government will be giving detailed consideration to a wide range of family matters later this year and this will provide an opportunity to take a considered view of all relevant issues, including those raised in the Newman bill.
"Upholding the rights of children must be the paramount consideration of all custody legislation. The Government agrees that the separation of parents does not, and should not, terminate parental responsibilities for either parent.
"Seeking to promote fairness in situations where child custody and access is being contested is a laudable objective.
"However the Government does not consider that the one size fits all solution promoted by Mrs Newman through this bill is appropriate.
"In attempting to legislate preferred or favoured custody arrangements the bill places the rights of parents above those of children and as such it is inconsistent with other family law statutes.
"New Zealand research shows that joint custody arrangements only work well when there is good co-operation between both parents. My concern about Mrs Newman's bill is that it risks making parental co-operation much harder to achieve and instead invites lawyers into the process.
"Later this year I will be reviewing how the Government deals with a range of child welfare issues. My colleague the Attorney-General, Margaret Wilson, has also indicated that she intends to review the present Guardianship Act around the same time.
"Our view is that, taken together, these evaluations will provide a better opportunity to consider the issues raised by Mrs Newman and that as a result we will be able to arrive a workable solutions which preserve the paramountcy of the rights of children", Steve Maharey said.