Dads and separation – what are my responsibilities under the 2004 Care of Children act
The Act was created to promote the involvement of both parents, that both parents have equal responsibility for their children and the children are given the opportunity to be involved and have their needs respected.
The Act states that there is to be continued involvement of both parents but this does not necessarily mean that each parent will have equal time with their children. Of course the better the relationship with your ex partner the better the outcome in terms of spending time with your children.
Both mum and dad have equal status as the children’s guardians. This means equal responsibility for the major decisions such as education, urgent medical treatment and where the children are living. The focus here really is to promote the best interests of the children.
The Act states parenting should be cooperative and that children must be given the opportunity to be heard. Children will have their own sense of time and may not fully understand, for example, what every other weekend actually means for them. So you will need to consider this and take into account their age and ability when making decisions.
Despite the changes to your family’s situation, the children’s relationship with their wh?nau or family, identity, culture, language and religion will need to be maintained.
If parents are unable to reach agreements about their children then The Family Court can arrange for private counselling. They can support you as parents by making a parenting order, which basically means a daily schedule of who has contact and care of the children. A parenting order, if needed, can also cover financial arrangements.
It’s useful to know that the Act has also done away with the commonly used terms of “custody” and “access”.
An understanding of the Act can help you work out the best care for your children through the difficulties of separation and the time after.
Key take aways:
- Familiarise yourself with the Care of Children Act 2004 (as hard as it may sound to read up on lots of legal information). It is very useful to know your rights and obligations and the Act sets out various options you may want to check.
- If you find it hard to understand what the legal information actually means in practice, get help from someone who has had legal training. Ask you local community law office or staff at the Citizens Advice Bureau.
- Use the Act itself as a guide for getting a plan together that works for you and your family.
Important links and more information about separation:
- IRD – child support payments
- IRD – glossary of terms used by the IRD
- IRD – administrative reviews
- IRD phone service: 0800 self-service line / Freephone 0800 257 777. An automated telephone line available any time (except between 5am and 6am) seven days a week (have your IRD number handy when you call).
- Community Law Centres
- Making care arrangements for your children
- Youth Law – for dads aged 25 and younger
- Family Law information
- Information about NZ legislation