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Shared Parenting Experts Visiting New Zealand

Two American experts on shared parenting are visiting New Zealand over the next week to brief politicians and child welfare groups on the American experience of joint custody.

The visit comes amidst strong support for New Zealand to adopt similar measures put forward in a Private Member’s Bill by ACT Social Welfare Spokesman Muriel Newman.

The Shared Parenting Bill, currently before Parliament, seeks to ensure that the right of children to retain contact with both parents following separation or divorce is protect by law. Currently, 25% of children whose parents split lose all effective contact with their non-custodial parent and a further 40% see their parent for only a few hours every two weeks.

James Cook, a driving force behind joint custody in the US and Renee Sperling, a high profile family lawyer will spend their six day visit talking to MPs from all parties and a wide range of officials, academics and interest groups on the long experience the USA has of joint custody.

Their visit coincides with a major push for Parliament to send the Newman Bill to a Select Committee to allow MPs and the public to address the custody laws that have essentially remained untouched for 20 years.

Groups supporting the Bill are holding public meetings in Wellington and Auckland next week and will be launching a nation-wide petition to present to Parliament on May 10, the day the Bill will be debated, asking that MPs vote to send the Newman Bill to a Select Committee.

Dr Newman said it was important that New Zealand looked at the success of joint custody in other countries when considering shared parenting here. “The minority Government is refusing to support this Bill without proper consideration. Its policy is to put property before children in promoting sweeping changes to the Matrimonial Property Bill while at the same time planning to kill the children’s Bill.

“Labour have been quick to jump up and down about parents not taking responsibility for their children but are running a mile at the first opportunity to keep parents in their children’s lives.

“Shared Parenting is an idea whose time has come. For parents and children kept apart by the current law it is urgent that Parliament look at how to bring them back together,” she said.

ENDS

Biographies for James A Cook & Renee Sperling

James A Cook: President of the non-profit Joint Custody Association for children of divorce and Executive Director of the non-profit National Congress for fathers and children; of which he is the original organising chairman. Cook is also a board member of the Global Children’s Organisation. Cook was Executive Director of the bipartisan California Space Shuttle Task Force to bring into being the Space Shuttle as a nation-wide programme. He was the producer of a five-year long public affairs television series, Insider/Outsider, portraying the plight of inner city minorities following the Watts (Los Angeles) riots. Cook was also the producer of a 39-half hour television series broadcast by CBS entitled Communism: Myth vs Reality. He was also a member of the Santa Monica (California) based RAND Corporation, often described as a “think tank” about government policies, and served for a decade in the US State Department’s US Information Agency with specialisation in the Middle East, having served at the American Embassy in Tehran and at the American University in Beirut.

Renee Sperling: Renee has practised law in the Beverly Hills, California, and the greater Los Angeles area for the past 17 years. For several years she has been the Chairman of the Family Law Section of the West Los Angeles Bar Association. A BA graduate of the University of California at Berkeley, she received a Master’s Degree in education at the University of Southern California, and a law degree from the South-western College of Law. A mother of two, Renee is also a board member of the Global Children’s Organisation, and during 1996 served as a volunteer at a children’s camp in Croatia.

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