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Passing of Care of Children Bill

09 November, 2004

Passing of Care of Children Bill introduces raft of improvements to guardianship laws

Significant improvements to the process for resolving care arrangements for children at the centre of divorce and separation were welcomed today by Associate Justice Minister David Benson-Pope.

Mr Benson-Pope says he hoped the wide-reaching initiatives contained within the Care of Children Bill and the Status of Children Amendment Bill, which successfully had their final reading in Parliament today, hadn't been overshadowed by controversy surrounding Clause 37 and the issue of parental notification.

"This new law includes a range of changes, all with the purpose of improving the situation of children and families who have experienced divorce and separation," said Mr Benson-Pope. "The cornerstone principle in the Bill is that the welfare and best interests of the child must be the first and paramount consideration in decision-making.

"The Care of Children Bill also encourages care arrangements be resolved quickly to minimise the effects of conflict on children. The Bill replaces the old custody and access orders with parenting orders. Parenting orders will set out the times a parent will have the role of providing day-to-day care for a child or have contact with the child, and can acknowledge shared day-to-day care responsibilities.

Other changes to the law include: increased emphasis and guidance for determining what is in a particular child's best interests and welfare when settling that child’s care arrangements.

Increased recognition of the role of children in guardianship proceedings, such as the right to appeal from Family Court decisions.

New terminology signalling an emphasis on guardians’ responsibilities and on the sharing of responsibilities between guardians regardless of who lives with the child. providing more opportunities for family members to have a role in guardianship matters, for example by attending court hearings.

Extending the group of adults with legal responsibility for children by enabling parents to, subject to some sensible safeguards, appoint a new partner as a legal guardian for their child. adding to the Family Court's tools for supporting or enforcing court orders where families are unable to reach agreement or abide by agreed arrangements.

ENDS

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