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UnitedFuture pushing to reform family law

Tuesday, 12 August 2008

UnitedFuture pushing to reform family law

UnitedFuture has announced plans to reform New Zealand family law, in a three-pronged approach designed to keep both parents closely involved in the day-to-day lives of their children following family breakdown.

“UnitedFuture will introduce ‘shared parenting’ as a default position for child custody arrangements in the family court,” announced family spokesperson Judy Turner.

“Shared parenting is currently granted in only one in nine judgements by the Family Court, with sole custody given to only one parent in eight out of ten cases, which is an extremely unsatisfactory situation.

“Shared parenting would mean that when both parents want custody, there will be a presumption that day-to-day care will be shared unless there are good reasons why it should not be.

“Academic studies as well as common-sense tell us that children are better off when they continue to have significant relationships with both parents after parental separation,” says Mrs Turner.

UnitedFuture today announced a new Member’s Bill, that will amend the Care of Children Act, to legislate for shared parenting.

The second change would be to enact Mrs Turner’s Family Proceeding (Paternity Orders and Parentage Tests) Amendment Bill that currently awaits a first reading. It would enable the Family Court to order DNA testing to confirm whether a man is the biological father of a child.

“It is a disgrace that the Government has not bothered to allow for DNA testing to create certainty for families, where currently none exists.

“The fact that these men are forced to pay hundreds of thousands of dollars in child support for children they are not sure are even their own is a breach of natural justice.

“For the children it is a human rights issue – they are entitled to know who their father is, or in some cases is not,” says Mrs Turner.

The third plank of the reforms proposed by UnitedFuture involves a review of the child support system, to look at ways in which the system can be made fairer.

UnitedFuture leader and Minister of Revenue Peter Dunne has ordered a review of the child support scheme to make it more responsive to factors such as shared care, the income levels of both parents and the costs of raising children.

“It is timely to reassess the formula, to ensure that it is flexible enough to reflect the complexities of raising children when the parents are separated and both parents contribute to the care of their children,” said Mr Dunne.

“I have asked my policy officials to examine a number of options for updating the child support system to deal with these and related concerns.”

“Family law is failing thousands of families in New Zealand and is long overdue for reform, and the effect of fatherlessness is well known and a prime indicator for crime and antisocial behaviour,” says Mrs Turner.

She refers to figures from Massey University economist Stuart Birks who found that children from fatherless homes are:

- 5 times more likely to commit suicide.
- 32 times more likely to run away.
- 20 times more likely to have behavioural disorders.
- 14 times more likely to commit rape
- 9 times more likely to drop out of high school.
- 10 times more likely to abuse chemical substances.
- 9 times more likely to end up in a state-operated institution.
- 20 times more likely to end up in prison.

“Family law reform is well overdue in this country. The effects of our current system cannot be underestimated and have wide-ranging consequences,” says Mrs Turner.

“UnitedFuture is the only party working to make sure children continue to enjoy the support and care of their entire family after parental separation, and we are taking the necessary steps to achieve this.

“Our new shared parenting bill is another significant step to supporting New Zealand families,” says Mrs Turner.


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