Archive for New Zealand

Antipodean Child Custody

I probably need to explain the first word of the title to my American audience. I first came across this word two decades ago when I was supervising the foreign staff for a large Japanese training company.  Very soon after being recruited from California, I was told that I should quickly fire two staff members: A “Kiwi” who came to work with a “gloomy face” (ignoring the fact that he came from a close-knit rural family and two of his family members had recently died) and an “Ozzie” who was considered too uppity because he had near fluency in Japanese and therefore was the only “gaijin” in the office who could decode the local staff’s conversations.

Needless to say I fought my bosses on their “Antipodean antipathies” and we all left the company within 18 months.  The experience did help me get reacquainted with a unique culture that I had first encountered with an Aussie college roommate in the 70’s.  The second definition of “antipodes” is “the exact opposite” and that certainly fits in child custody, as it does in many other areas.  Stated simply, the typical Antipodean child custody case should have less conflict than a US one, simply due to demographics: New Zealand is 86% urban and Australia is 89%, making them two of the most urban nations in the world, especially if one excludes Europe and the many small island nations.  What’s more, 32% of Kiwis live in one city, Auckland, and Aussies are concentrated in the southeast corner of the country.  This is crucial because studies have found that four years after separation or divorce, up to 75% of custodial parents move away.  In a very mobile and widely separated nation like the US, this invites deep conflict, assuming both parents desire regular access to their children.

The Antipodes, however are the opposite when it comes to the probability of being involved in an international child custody case.  The above kink is to a Kiwi court case but it’s actually an Irish mother!  Within the article is a link to another Kiwi family court case but this one involves an American dad and his fight to bring his kids to the US to visit their grandparents (maybe the Kiwis haven’t yet discovered this, but in the US this is typically done by posting a substantial bond with the court). These cases will no doubt become more and more common since New Zealand has a very open economy and thousands of foreigners have been lured there by the weak Kiwi currency and the breathtaking scenery featured in the Lord of the Rings films.

As for Australia, I would invite the reader to google “Australia 60 Minutes Lebanese child custody case”.  Apparently this spin-off of the famous US show doesn’t have quite the same high journalistic standards.   The story involves the show paying for kidnappers to abduct her children from their father in Lebanon!  I suppose it was intended to be a mini-version of the compelling Sally Field drama, “Not Without My Daughter(in which an American mother tries to smuggle her child out of Iran in the 1980’s)”.  The show was unsuccessful in pulling off the caper but I would guess that it garnered high ratings down under.

In summary, these cases seem appropriate for a high UN Commission but that organizations track record of spending most of its time, money and energy on issues of political correctness would offer little hope for the unfortunate parent involved in an international child custody case.


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