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How should the Property (Relationships) Act 1976 recognise children’s interests?

Many children’s parents separate. Almost half of all divorces in 2016 involved children and over 6,000 children under 17 were affected.

When parents split up, the way they divide their property affects their children. It can affect their accommodation, their standard of living, where they go to school and their ability to maintain relationships with family, whānau, friends and community.

The Property (Relationships) Act 1976 recognises that children’s interests are relevant when parents separate or when one partner dies. When dividing a couple’s property, the court can make orders that can benefit children. For example, the court can put some of the parents’ property to one side specifically for the children. Sometimes, the court can postpone the time at which the parents divide the relationship property.

But the court rarely makes these orders. Parents rarely ask the court to make them. The court can be reluctant to take property away from parents or to prevent parents from getting their share of property straight away.

We do not think children’s interests are adequately recognised. The law should focus more on children.

But we are interested to hear what you think about:

  1. Who counts as a child? And what counts as a family?
  2. Should the law focus more on children’s interests?
  3. What would it mean if the law focused more on children’s interests? In particular:

 

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