Supporting grandparent/grandchild contact under the Care of Children Act 2004: an assessment of current options, and a call for change.

Rick Fisher, Trudy Hutton-Baas

Abstract


INTRODUCTION: The Care of Children Act 2004 reformed the law of child guardianship in Aotearoa New Zealand. However, it did not result in any special legal standing for grandparents seeking contact with their grandchildren, so as to ensure their continued presence in a grandchild’s life following a relationship breakdown, or where contact is resisted.

METHODS: Non-doctrinal policy law research methods were used to analyse policies that were relied upon during the law’s promulgation, impacts of the law since its enactment, and associated issues that have arisen in its application by practitioners. Litigation to date involving grandparental rights of contact was studied, using Lexis Nexis Westlaw New Zealand, including its family law suite of searchable databases.

FINDINGS: The research revealed a number of processes available under the Care of Children Act and associated family law legislation which may be helpful to grandparents who seek contact with grandchildren. However, none of them resolve the central issue of lack of legal standing, which continues to be an important impediment for grandparents who seek assurance of continuing contact with their grandchildren following family breakdown.

CONCLUSIONS: Examples of law changes which have occurred in other jurisdictions, notably Canada, are offered in support of reform of the Care of Children Act, which would bring Aotearoa New Zealand more in line with other, more progressive countries in its treatment of grandparent/grandchild relationships. 


Keywords


contact, access, grandparent, grandchild

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DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.11157/anzswj-vol29iss3id301

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