New law could set precedent

Sunday Star Times 19 Nov 06
More children may seek to “divorce” their parents under a law change which places greater weight on the wishes of the child and removes age and maturity as factors in court decisions. Last week the Sunday Star-Times reported a Family Court judgement allowing a 16-year-old to place herself under legal guardianship of the court after falling out with her mother.Otago University law faculty dean Mark Henaghan said the case, in which the 16-year-old effectively transferred her day-to-day care to her older sister, was the result of new law which recognised children as independent entities rather than extensions of their families. However, Henaghan said family law cases were always decided on their merits and this case would not necessarily set a precedent for teenagers who fall out with their parents. Teenagers frequently fell out with their mothers. This one had become a “cause celebre” because it reached the courts. Most unhappy teenagers would simply go flatting or run away, he said.The case angered Bob McCoskrie, director of Christian lobby group Family First, who said the law was failing to take the rights of families into account. He said parents raised children and had the right to set boundaries without interference from lobbyists and the court system. There should be a “default setting” on children’s ages or maturity to protect them from such situations, he said. Children’s lobbyists had good intentions but were “creating a wedge between the children and the parents”, he said.

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