The Lawyer for the Child in New Zealand

17 SEP 2007

Judge Paul von Dadelszen, Family Court of New Zealand. Section 7 of the Care of Children Act 2004 requires the Family Court of New Zealand to appoint a lawyer to act for a child (a person under the age of 18 years) in respect of applications for day-to-day care or contact which appear likely to proceed to hearing (except if the court 'is satisfied that the appointment would serve no useful purpose'). In practice, such appointment is almost always made in cases of clear dispute, especially where abuse is alleged. Following the enactment of the 2004 legislation, which replaced the Guardianship Act 1968 (the 1968 Act), this question was asked: did the Care of Children Act have the effect of changing the role of lawyer for the child? After wide consultation and debate, the Principal Family Court Judge, Peter Boshier, took the opportunity to issue a new Practice Note: Lawyer for the Child: Code of Conduct, defining and regulating the role and duties of lawyer for the child (those who represent children under the Act are skilled at this work, being appointed from the ranks of experienced family lawyers; they are interviewed and selected by a panel comprising the local judge, other family lawyers, a psychologist and the family court co-ordinator). The issue which was the subject of debate was whether that role should be 'best interests' or 'advocacy' or a combination of both. In his article in September [2007] International Family Law, Judge Paul von Dadelszen highlights the differences between those two roles and explains the new Practice Note.

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