they should “attend to the views of the primary care-giver” when arrangements are being made for access and custody;
Child Advocates should make specific recommendations to facilitate access in relation to transportation and housing for the child, and where there are deficiencies in child rearing skills;
Child Advocates should contact the primary care-giver every six months to ensure that access arrangements are working satisfactorily and that whatever changes are necessary as the child develops are made appropriately;
Child Advocates should meet the children;
there should be procedures for changing the Child Advocate if either parent finds him unsatisfactory;667
Child Advocates should work within a specific budget and time-frame, which would limit the delay in decision making and ensure that adequate investigation was carried out; and
Child Advocates should understand the dynamics of domestic violence and power imbalances.668
5.74Her views must be seen in the context of the high rates of domestic violence in New Zealand. However, Neilson is also addressing the concerns of many women that, if they are the de facto primary care-giver, the court should give more recognition to that reality instead of giving more rights over the child to the other parent who may abuse access as a way of continuing the conflict.
5.75The secretary to the sub-committee visited the Family Court in January 1996 and found that the mediation conferences were in effect settlement conferences. However, there was an informal and relaxed atmosphere, where the parties were asked individually to give their views to the judge. Some parties were more forthcoming than others. The Counsel for the Child played a strong role in voicing concerns for the child. During a break, in the absence of the judge, counsel played a mediating role which resulted in clarification and settlement of some of the issues in a highly complex case where the couple had a background of extreme conflict between them.
667 The problem with this suggestion is the risk of a parent constantly challenging the child advocate as the parent is aggressive and conflictual. However, a maximum of one change for each parent should be considered in case there is a personality clash between the parent and the counsel.
668 Supra at 159-160.