You may now be able to have care or guardianship of a child under new child law. The law change is based on the current diversity of family arrangements for the care of children, including the nuclear family, single-parents and same-sex couples.  It also places a stronger emphasis on the rights and the views of the child.  There are a number of significant points to note:

  • Children’s views must be sought and taken into account.  This relates to any proceedings involving the guardianship of, day-to-day care for, or contact with the child or the administration of property belonging to the child or held in trust for the child.
  • In Court cases that involve the day-to-day care or contact of a child, the Court must appoint a lawyer to act for the child.
  • A wider group of people will be entitled to apply to the Court for the care of a child.  Newly included people are:
    • de facto partners (minimum age of 16) who are not the parent of the child.  This includes same-sex de facto partners.
    • Eligible step-parents.
    • The child’s extended family/whanau or culturally recognised family group (with the Court’s permission).
  • There is a wider group of people entitled to be guardians of a child.  Guardianship is commonly recognised as the bundle of rights concerning the upbringing of a child including decisions about education, religion, medical procedures and the child’s physical and emotional development.  It also normally includes the day-to-day care of a child.
  • The father will now be a guardian if he has lived with the mother at any time between conception and birth – if the child is conceived on or after 1 July 2005.  Under the previous law it was only if he was living with the mother at the time of birth.
  • If the father’s name is correctly placed on the birth certificate he will automatically be a guardian of the child (if the father is registered on the birth certificate after 1 July 2005).
  • It will be unusual for guardianship to be terminated before the child turns 18 (a new statutory age limit, down from 20).  However, if the child becomes a parent, at whatever age, guardianship rights will end.

Given the current diversity of family setups in New Zealand a wider group of people is now entitled to care for children of a relationship.  To balance this, the child has a greater say in decisions.  This legislation will have a significant impact on the rights of children and their caregivers.

Please note that Rainey Collins is not contracted to provide Legal Aid, other than in the Treaty of Waitangi area.  We therefore are unable to take on any Civil or Family Legal Aid work. If you require Legal Aid in those areas, you can search the list of Legal Aid lawyers on the Ministry of Justice website.