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Greens secure Govt action on Family Court review

The Green Party have secured an agreement from the government that a review of Family Court procedures and the Guardianship Act will be undertaken, to improve access between children and non-custodial parents.

An inter-party working group, including Green Party MP and Women's Affairs spokesperson Sue Kedgley, has been set up to design a review of the Guardianship Act and Family Court. It is likely to lead to carefully drafted legislation to address access, custody and other Family Court problems.

"We will not be supporting ACT MP Muriel Newman's Shared Parenting Bill going to select committee," said Ms Kedgley today.

"There are serious defects in the way the bill is drafted and we believe the principle of shared parenting should be embodied not in a separate and new bill which replaces the crucial concept of guardianship in New Zealand law, but by amending the present law on guardianship to establish a new principle - that there should be frequent and continuing contact with both parents following divorce.

"In addition there needs to be a review of the Family Court procedures as they relate to guardianship," she said.

"However we agree with aspects of the 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.

"For that reason I congratulate Muriel for bringing this issue before Parliament," said Ms Kedgley.

"I have sought and been promised that there will be a review of the Family Court and the Guardianship Act which will consider a general principle that 'children should have frequent and continuing contact with both parents'."

ends

Attached is a letter from Green Co-Leader Jeanette Fitzsimons to Dr Muriel Newman - a copy of Sue Kedgley's speech in the House tonight is available - under embargo - on request

Sue Kedgley MP: 04 470 6728, 025 270 9088 Jonathan Hill (press secretary) 04 470 6719, 021 110 1133

------------------------------------------------------

27 March 2000

Dr Muriel Newman MP

Dear Muriel,

SHARED PARENTING BILL

I would like to thank you for seeking our support for the above bill, and because of the importance we attach to the issues you seek to address in the bill, I have decided to write to explain the reasons why the Green Party is not supporting it progressing to a select committee.

We have problems with the bill not being drafted in a way which would appear acceptable as legislation, but more importantly we are concerned that parts of the bill diminish existing provisions to address family violence and detract from the rights of children.

However we agree with you that there is a real problem in access to children for some non-custodial parents, and of course access to natural parents for some children. We are also concerned about the costs and length of time involved in Family Court cases, which make access and custody battles difficult, if not impossible, for many low income parents.

For these reasons we have sought, and received, an assurance from the Government that it will review the Family Court. We are determined that this should happen as soon as possible and will be actively campaigning for urgent action on the issue.

Thank you again for your bill.

Yours sincerely

Jeanette Fitzsimons MP


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