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Important new guardianship laws a step closer

Important new guardianship laws a step closer with support from Greens for urgency

The most significant improvements to guardianship laws in almost four decades will be considered by Parliament this week thanks to the support of the Green Party, says Associate Justice Minister David Benson-Pope.

Mr Benson-Pope says the Care of Children Bill includes a range of changes to the law, all with the purpose of improving the situation of children and families who have experienced divorce and separation.

The Bill repeals and replaces the Guardianship Act, which was passed nearly 36 years ago. Mr Benson-Pope says the Green Party has supported moving Parliament into urgency this Thursday so this important legislation can be passed as expeditiously as possible. He says urgency guarantees this family-friendly Bill is considered in a busy legislative programme between now and Christmas.

"Too often children are caught in a tug of war between estranged parents, each seeking exclusive custody of their child in a win-lose scenario," said Mr Benson-Pope. "Bitterness between separating parents can prevent them reaching agreement over sensible and enduring care arrangements for their children."

Mr Benson-Pope says the Care of Children Bill encourages parents to focus on the best interests and welfare of their children. The Bill emphasises that guardianship responsibility should be exercised jointly, involving consultation aimed at reaching agreement.

"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," said Mr Benson-Pope. "That's an important and appropriate approach."

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 of a child or have contact with the child, and can acknowledge shared day-to-day care responsibilities.

"The public have also asked for a more open Family Court," said Mr Benson-Pope. "It is important that people have confidence in the Court while recognising that issues being discussed may be intensely private and personal. Access to the Court by accredited media, with clear guidelines to retain the anonymity of the parties and children involved, will remove misconceptions that the Family Court's previously private hearings might have allowed for unfair processes and bias."

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