Ridenour v Ratcliff [2019] NZFC 3965

Published 06 September 2019

Care arrangements — relocation of child — drug use — methamphetamine — alcohol — exposure to conflict — Care of Children Act 2004, ss 4, 5 & 6. The applicant mother sought to change care arrangements for her eldest child. The child was currently in the day-to-day care of the respondent father; the applicant had become concerned about the child due to the respondent's use of methamphetamine. It was noted this application was not malicious and was only made out of concern for the child. The parties had otherwise cooperated well in parenting their children after separation. Section 4 of the Care of Child Act (the Act) states the paramount concern is the welfare and best interests of the child. It is also a requirement that the Court take into account the principles in s 5 which include safety, parental and guardian responsibility for care, consultation and co-operation, continuity of caregiving arrangements, continuing relationships with parents and the preservation and strengthening of extended family relationships and identity. Section 6 states that opportunities must be given to children to express their views, and any views expressed must be taken into account. The Judge heard evidence from both parties, social workers, and spoke to the child. It was clear that the respondent had drug issues and needed to appreciate the dangers of using drugs around his children, especially when the child in question was at an age where they may be exposed to drugs and regard taking drugs as normal. However, the father had worked hard to complete programmes and had began counselling to address his drug use disorder. The Judge found that to relocate the child to his mother's care could cause psychological harm. The child had settled into a new school and did not want to move. It was decided it was in the welfare and best interests of the child to remain in the care of the father. This was important for continuity of care, cultural reasons and to preserve the child's relationship with his mother. A case management review was to occur in one month to monitor progress. Judgment Date: 23 May 2019. * * * Note: names have been changed to comply with legal requirements. * * *