What works for separated parents and caregivers making parenting arrangements in New Zealand

Family law and post separation
Wednesday 25 July, 1420 – 1440


Dr Megan Gollop
Children’s Issues Centre, University of Otago

New Zealand’s family justice system underwent significant reform in 2014. These reforms were intended to better support separated parents to resolve parenting disputes through out-of-court family dispute resolution processes. This presentation reports on a nationwide mixed-methods study currently being undertaken which aims to: 1. evaluate these reforms and; 2. understand the range of pathways that New Zealand families use to resolve decisions about their children’s care, including those who do not engage with the family justice system. This is the largest study ever undertaken in New Zealand about parents’ and family justice professionals’ perceptions and experiences of post-separation family dispute resolution processes about children’s care arrangements.
Around 500 parents and caregivers completed an online survey about how they made (or changed) their parenting arrangements since the reforms took effect and their use of, and satisfaction with, family justice services. Over a fifth of these participants also took part in in-depth interviews.
This presentation will outline the steps parents and caregivers took to make or change their parenting arrangements and their perceived helpfulness. These included informal steps, as well as the use of lawyers, post-separation parenting courses, Family Dispute Resolution mediation, community and private services, and the Family Court. How parenting arrangements were ultimately decided and how well the various dispute resolution approaches worked for the families will also be discussed. The study makes a significant contribution to understanding what works well and how the family justice system could be improved to better assist separated parents and their children.