Whāngai is a Māori customary practice where a child goes into the care of relatives, such as a grandparent, aunt or another member of the same hapū or iwi. The arrangement can be flexible because the child can return to the care of the birth parents or another relative.
Whāngai placements may occur for many reasons, like giving a child to people who cannot have children, consolidating land rights, or passing down traditions and knowledge.
The Property (Relationships) Act 1976 recognises children in several places. We look at children’s interests in more detail here. If there are children of a relationship, it can often affect the court’s decisions about:
- whether a relationship should come under the Property (Relationships) Act 1976;
- how the partners might divide their property to meet children’s interests; and
- whether it should put property to one side for the children.
Tikanga Māori does not determine the status of whāngai under the Property (Relationships) Act 1976. Instead, a whāngai might be a child of the relationship according to the Act’s rules. That means that a whāngai may be a child of the relationship when decisions are made under the Property (Relationships) Act 1976 even if there is no relationship of descent as determined by the tikanga of the respective whānau or hapū.
We want to know if a whāngai should be treated generally as a child of the relationship under the Property (Relationships) Act 1976? Or should special rules determine how whāngai should be treated according to tikanga Māori?