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Many clients who are involved in parenting disputes will often need advice regarding guardianship decisions. These types of disputes are different from disagreements involving the care and contact arrangements for children and are instead related to the important decisions about children.
Who is a Guardian
All biological parents of a child are automatically considered guardians at the birth of their child. Even if one parent does not have day-to-day care of a child, that parent is still considered a guardian of that child and should be included in all guardianship decisions.
Sometimes other persons may be appointed as additional guardians by the Family Court. For example, a grandmother who has day-to-day care of her grandchildren. If an additional guardian is appointed by the Court they will have the same responsibilities as the parents and so must work together with them to make decisions for the children.
What is a Guardian’s Role
A legal guardian is an adult who is involved in making significant decisions relating to children. These important aspects include, but are not limited to, decisions on education (which school/daycare a child attends), religious upbringing, cultural upbringing, location of where a child is living and medical treatment.
Most children have more than one guardian in their lives. It is very important that guardians work together to make decisions about their children.
Disputes between Guardians
Guardians must consult with each other to make the big decisions for the children - they cannot make unilateral decisions. Sometimes guardians cannot agree on arrangements for the children, such as where they are to go to school. In this situation a guardian may need to seek legal advice on their options including out-of-court services and, if necessary, the assistance of the Family Court.
In our Family team we are seeing an increasing number of disputes between guardians. At present two of the most common guardianship disputes that we are being asked to provide advice on are in relation to vaccinations and where a child should live. We are finding that this is in direct relation to the community transmission of COVID-19 and the reopening of New Zealand’s borders. In these circumstances it is extremely important guardians receive sound legal advice to minimize conflict for their children.
If you or someone you know is involved in a guardianship dispute, please do not hesitate to contact our Family team at Hamertons Lawyers Limited.