A Second Class Citizen

As the father of a child that I am denied access to by the mother, there should be something I can do for my child. The reality is that when I do try and do anything I am treated as a second class citizen here in New Zealand. There are quite a few ways in which I am treated as such. I point them all out below.

When a woman is pregnant a man has no rights at all. Yes, you read that correctly! A man has no rights. This means that if I get a woman pregnant and she leaves town or even the country, she can and there isn’t anything I can do about it. If she leaves (or tries to) after the baby is born, then I could try to get an injunction to stop her from leaving, but I may not be granted one.

I always thought taking children away from their parents or families was kidnapping! Apparently though, New Zealand allows it.

Children are taken and kept away from their parents every day in this country and usually by one of the child’s parents. Some people come home to find their family has vanished because one of the parents has decided to raise them alone. They then keep them away from the other parent forever or blackmail the other parent before allowing the parent to see them again. Taking children away from their parent/family and then not telling them where they are and blackmailing them for money certainly sounds like kidnapping to me. What else could it be?

If someone does this and is a custodial parent and the other just a guardian then that is somehow seen as different. If a guardian took the child then they would be arrested, but if a custodial parent took the child, that seems to be fine. If both parents are biological, then why should a title matter? Surely kidnapping, is kidnapping?

I am my child’s legal guardian. The NZ Justice website has this to say about guardianship…

“A legal guardian is an adult who is responsible for looking after a child. This covers the child’s care and upbringing.”

As a legal guardian I was told that I would have a say in my child’s upbringing but I am denied having a say in any aspect of my child’s life. No-one in a position of power will enforce it. It is left to the custodial parent to decide whether to allow me to or not. In other words, guardianship works on the honour system and the honour system is open to abuse.

The NZ Justice website also has this to say about guardianship…

“All mothers and most fathers are automatically guardians of their child at birth. If a couple splits up, they stay guardians of their children and should make guardianship decisions together if possible to guide their child’s upbringing and development.”

So there you have it, undeniable bias based purely on gender. Why should mothers get automatic guardianship but not all men? I wasn’t one of the lucky ones who were granted automatic guardianship, I had to fight and beg for it. Why?

They “should” make decisions together? Why does this not say they “must” make decisions together?

But hold on… isn’t there a Family Court I can go to and sort this out?

Why yes there is.

The first step is to get a lawyer, which of course costs a lot of money. If I cannot afford a lawyer I can get legal aid, but not if I earn over a certain amount or if my partner does. If that is the case then there is nothing I can do.

In New Zealand justice is not for all. To have access to justice you have to be either very rich or be dirt poor. Shouldn’t justice be for everyone?

Let’s for arguments sake say I can afford a lawyer, well that doesn’t help me much anyway.

I can go to mediation, where again the honour system comes into play. The mediator or judge who runs the mediation has no power to make any decisions. How is that supposed to help?

When that doesn’t work, I can go to court. Again, only if I have the money to do so and if I don’t, I get stuck in a loop of endless and meaningless mediations. Especially if the custodial parent has legal aid, they can play the game for as long as they like as it doesn’t cost them anything but a small piece of their time.

If I am falsely accused of something and it is proved that I am innocent, that person will have no repercussions of making this false allegation. Why? How can someone get away with this? It seems to me that the person making the false allegation is protected and the real victim, the one who was found innocent, is punished. They are punished by having the stress of being falsely accused and more than likely having to pay to prove their innocence, while the accuser gets off scot free and can do it again if they like! Also nothing said in mediation is allowed to be used in court. I have never understood that.

Again for arguments sake, let’s say I am graciously “allowed” to see my child… on paper that is, in the form of a Parenting Order. Great! I then go to see my child at the agreed time and place, yet the custodial parent isn’t there. So what can I do now?

I can go to the Family Court and ask for an injunction, except I have to pay thousands of dollars to do so, not including lawyers’ fees. The court may or may not do anything about it. That’s right, the judge may decide that it doesn’t matter that the child is being alienated from their parent/family!

If the court does decide to do something about it, one of the things they can do is fine the custodial parent. Which is great you say? Well yes… except for the fact that the maximum fine is half of what it costs to get an injunction in the first place. Less than half if you include lawyer’s fees.

Why should I be forced to pay more than the person who has broken the law/not upheld the parenting order? Why am I the one getting fined and treated like the criminal? Where is the justice?

The courts can also hold mediations without me, the non-custodial parent, and allow the custodial parent to make decisions about my life and my child’s life for me. How can this happen if I am not seen as a second class citizen?

So the custodial parent hasn’t shown up with my child and I can’t afford a lawyer or to go to the courts, what can I do next? I know, I will call the police, they will help me right? I mean it says so on my parenting order etc. so I will do that. Except when I do call them I am told they cannot do anything because it is a civil matter and they are not allowed to get involved in civil matters.

Well that’s easy then I will just turn up at the custodial parent’s house and get my child myself. No, I can’t do that or I will be arrested by the very police who said they can’t get involved. I will most likely be charged with attempted kidnapping or be trespassed off the property. Then the custodial parent will probably get a protection order against me. Remember, I have a parenting order made by the Family Court that says I am allowed access. Seems a bit of a worthless piece of paper doesn’t it?

Well I’ll go and see Child, Youth and Family then! Good idea right? Wrong. They won’t do anything either because they say that it seems like a family issue and not a child safety issue. Aren’t the words child, youth and family in the name of the organisation? Isn’t that THE name? Nope, doesn’t matter, they won’t help.

Seeing as I have concerns about my child’s safety and well-being I should call my child’s doctor and ask to see the medical records. Under New Zealand law the fact that I am a guardian means I am entitled to see them. When the doctor refuses to allow me to see them I am confused. They cite the privacy act and tell me that this over-rides my guardianship. How can this be? This doesn’t seem right. So I call the Privacy Commission who tell me that the relationship between the child and their doctor must be upheld and protected. They seem to have no concerns about protecting the relationship between a child and their parent! I am sure they must know best and don’t have their wires or morals crossed… how could they right?

Well then I guess I had better go to the Human Rights Commission then because I am a human and my rights are being denied. Except when I get there I am told that they will not do anything to do with the Family Court and therefore will not help me. That’s right the organisation that is set up to look after human rights is saying they can’t and won’t help me. On their website it reads…

“Our purpose is to promote and protect the human rights of all people in Aotearoa New Zealand.”

Why am I not one of the people whose human rights should be protected and promoted? I am a New Zealand citizen, I was born here and I live here. I am pretty sure I am human too. They obviously don’t believe I am a human or at least one whose rights deserve to be protected.

Ok so what next? What is left for me to do? I know, I will contact the media. This is surely newsworthy right? Well it might be but the media won’t touch it. They have been told and it is the law that they cannot report on the family court. So I have no way of getting my story out.

So I guess all that is left for me to do is contact politicians. But they are disinterested in what I have to say or feign interest and fob me off to other politicians who do the same thing until I tire of being bumped from one politician to the next.

With nothing left to do I can go and see the Citizens Advice Bureau. Their only advice is to get a lawyer and go through the Family Court, which as you remember is where I started!  In fact everyone I have spoken to has told me to get a lawyer or to just give up!

Well hold on though… there is a silver lining in the lawyer thing (sarcasm)! I can appoint a Lawyer for Child who can act on my child’s behalf. This is great except for the fact that the Lawyer for Child can legally only speak to one of the parents and make their mind up based on that parents stories with no evidence. Yup, you guessed it.. The lawyer has decided to only listen to the custodial parent. Despite the fact that it was me that appointed him/her! Of course appointing a Lawyer for Child is redundant anyway as the courts are a farce.

Lawyers of course are happy to take my money and tell me that they can help, but seeing as there is no-one who will enforce any decisions made in court or mediation, they seem rather disingenuous.

So that is it, there is nothing that a second class citizen like myself can do. But the fun doesn’t stop there! Oh no! We still have some way to go!

I can, however, at least get some co-operation from my child’s school can’t I? Nope. They can deny me parent-teacher interviews and access to reports and my child’s school file. All of course which is based on the custodial parents lies. No proof necessary.

I can write to the Board of Trustees but they just back the schools decision, even though they can see the school is clearly in the wrong.

So I contact the Ministry of Education to complain but they just ignore me, which of course validates the schools treatment of me. Even if the Ministry does do something, it seems as though there are no repercussions for the school or people involved and they are free to continue doing what they’re doing.

As a non-custodial parent I am forced to pay child support. The amount I have to pay is based on an estimate (not the actual amount) of my potential earnings from the previous year. So it isn’t based on what I am currently earning, which could be zero, but on the previous year which could have been over a million dollars. If I do not pay or cannot pay the full amount I am charged penalty fees. These keep adding up the more I don’t pay. The IRD can also take my child support straight from my account if they wish, whether I want them to or not.

Usually the amount is more than what it actually costs to look after a child or more than another child I have in my care.

If I disagree with the amount then I can have it reviewed and at that review they may decide to increase the amount I have to pay and I am not allowed to have another review until the next financial year. This would be like working on minimum wage but paying tax in the highest tax bracket and not being allowed to do anything about it! It makes no sense.

Also the custodial parent is under no obligation (other than moral) to actually spend a cent of it on the child. They do not have to produce receipts or proof that any money has gone to the child.

That seems fair doesn’t it? I mean parents who aren’t separated get fined if they don’t spend the exact money on their child every month right? No? Well that’s strange then! Also the IRD decides for the non-separated parent’s how much it will cost to raise each of their children, right? No? So why am I being treated differently?

There must be an upside to paying child support though! Surely it allows me to see my child because I am providing financial support? No, it doesn’t. Paying child support and seeing my child (which helps to provide support) are two very separate things in the eyes of the law. Unless of course you are the custodial parent and can use non-payment as a valid reason to not allow access. Seems like a double standard and a clear bias to me.

Also in New Zealand the less I see my child, despite whatever reasons for that, the more I have to pay in child support! There is no way that can ever be abused can it? (Heavy sarcasm, in case you missed it!) So I get to pay more for the privilege of seeing my child less!

There are also agreements with other countries to ensure people don’t just go overseas to avoid paying child support. Isn’t it strange how the authorities will ensure that the money is paid but turn a blind eye to parental alienation? Obviously money is more important than children.

If my child was being abused by the custodial parent or was allowing the abuse to occur and no-one went to check on them (like CYF refuse to), I would still have to pay child support. That means I would be paying child support to the person(s) that was abusing my child! In what world is it ok for a parent to have to pay their child’s abuser? If CYF did go and find there was abuse hopefully my child would be removed from that situation. However as we all unfortunately know this may not happen.

The same goes if I was falsely accused of something by the custodial parent, I would still have to pay them. Who else has to pay their abuser? No-one and nobody should have to.

So how else am I treated like a second class citizen?

Well if I were to get a woman pregnant and I didn’t want to keep the child, there is nothing I can do about it. (Thankfully I have never been in the situation of not wanting a child.) If she didn’t want it, then she can get an abortion. Simple as that. If she did want to keep it though, I again have no say in it and must pay for that child for 18+ years. If I want to keep it and she didn’t, well again she goes and gets an abortion and there is nothing left for me to do.

So as a male I have no reproductive rights. Just don’t have sex then you say? Well women can have sex AND still make a choice about whether they have a child or not, so why are men treated differently? If women can opt out, men should be able to as well.

I am not advocating for or against abortion, what I am advocating is for men to have a choice and some reproductive rights as well. Why can’t men sign a document stating they want nothing to do with the child and therefore waive all legal rights to it? If they try and contact the child before it is 18, then there should be repercussions, providing evidence is shown that they were the ones to initiate the contact! This would be needed so men couldn’t sign it and then have a relationship with the child but not be responsible for it. (Personally I would never sign my rights away to any child of mine but I believe that the point needs to be made.)

Speaking of children, as a man I could fall victim to paternity fraud. This is something that cannot happen to women. There is nothing to stop this happening. Again, it falls back on the honour system and we all know how well that works! So if I was concerned that a child might not be mine I can get a DNA test done to prove if I am the father right? Well yes I can, except legally I cannot force the child’s mother to agree to one. Therefore if she does not consent but still names me as the child’s father I would be obligated to pay child support and other costs for 18+ years only to find out the child isn’t mine or in fact never find out the truth.

Why can’t a DNA test be done on all new born children? A blood sample is taken anyway so it wouldn’t be difficult and paternity fraud would be a thing of the past. Why isn’t this in place already? The Care of Children Act says that children have the right to know their parents, but this doesn’t actually seem to be taken into consideration.

As a male in New Zealand if I experience domestic violence I have no-where to go. Women and children have shelters but there aren’t any for men. I guess we don’t need any? I guess it never happens to men? If it did there would be shelters for us. Except it does happen and still there are no shelters. Why? There are animal shelters as well. I guess I have fewer rights than an animal.

There is also a Male Assaults Female charge but not the other way around. Why is this? If I am beaten up by a woman and end up with a broken arm and two black eyes is this not just as traumatic if a man beats a woman up and she suffers the same injuries? Surely assault is assault? Why do women get a special law? Something seems screwy here!

Another way I am a second class citizen in New Zealand is that as a male I can be circumcised without my permission as child and no-one will bat an eyelid. However if I were a female and someone circumcised me the world would be in uproar and calling for the persons death. So why are males allowed to be circumcised but women are not?

And of course, let’s not forget the Ministry for Women! This is seemingly the only voice in the government’s ear on issues of gender. But aren’t there two genders? Why is there no equivalent for men? Do men not need one? Why? We have issues just like women. Why are we denied a voice? Why do we even need a separate ministry for either gender? New Zealand needs to do one of three things:

  1. Abolish the Ministry for Women
  2. Create a Ministry for Men or
  3. Combine the two and create a Ministry for Gender Issues

So in conclusion I am a second class citizen in New Zealand because…

I am a male

I am a father

I am a guardian

I am not a custodial parent

I earn too much but I am not rich but I am also not poor enough

I cannot afford justice

My child can be kidnapped and there is nothing I can do

No-one will uphold my rights or my child’s rights

I don’t have the same rights as other people

I am not allowed access to my child’s medical or school records

No agencies/courts that are set up to help children will help mine, at least not if I request them to

The media cannot report my story

I am forced to pay someone money whether I can afford it or not and if I don’t then there are consequences

I have no reproductive rights

If I experience domestic violence there are no shelters for me

If I am circumcised no-one cares… because I am a male

Apparently if I am abused or assaulted then it isn’t as bad as if it happens to a woman, even if we have the same injuries

There is no specific Ministry set up for men

There are laws to protect some people more than others and I am not one of the ones protected

New Zealand needs to have courts that actually work and people/agencies that can and will act when people are breaching court orders or are breaking the law. The laws need to be reworked so everyone has the same rights and access to justice, no matter how much money is in their wallets. To be honest, the way things are currently, I am surprised I am even allowed to vote!

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