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dc.contributor.advisorHenaghan, Mark
dc.contributor.authorStahl, Rebecca Michelle
dc.identifier.citationStahl, R. M. (2012). Becoming an Imaginary Friend: A New Paradigm for Lawyers Representing Children in Day-to-Day Care Cases (Thesis, Master of Laws). University of Otago. Retrieved from
dc.description.abstractThe role of lawyers for children in day-to-day care, or custody, cases has been the subject of debate and confusion for decades. The attempts to provide guidance all get stuck in the same place; they start from the assumption that the lawyer’s first, and sometimes only, duty is advocacy. They oscillate between client-directed representation and best interests representation. Moreover, the guidance always starts from the lawyer’s perspective. It asks, “what is the role of the lawyer for the child?” This thesis presents a new model and inverts the question. This thesis asks lawyers to see their role from the child’s perspective. Accordingly, this thesis looks at how the guidance has gotten stuck and what makes representing children in day-to-day care cases so unique that it has engendered such debate and confusion for over 50 years. It looks at a variety of the guidelines in the United States and the history of the role in New Zealand. New Zealand provides a perfect case study because it has a clear trail of guidelines leading to the present. Moreover, New Zealand is the only country in the world where lawyers for children are routinely appointed in all day-to-day care cases. This long history, however, has not curbed the confusion amongst practitioners, and this thesis analyses a survey of lawyers for children in New Zealand demonstrating they remain confused about their role and the child’s place in the system. The survey had a sample size of 55 and was administered online between May and July 2011. This thesis, therefore, provides a new framework. It steps out of the old paradigms and asks lawyers to enter the child’s world. It presents a model of the lawyer for the child as the child’s imaginary friend. An imaginary friend serves many roles for children, but most importantly, imaginary friends understand children and help them make sense of the adult world. Imaginary friendships are one-way streets where the child benefits and learns from interacting with the imaginary friend, and then the imaginary friend can leave the child’s life having assisted the child to grow and change through a difficult time. Imaginary friends are also unique to each individual child, and they serve the needs of each child. Therefore, imaginary friends serve as a perfect model for lawyers representing children in day-to-day care cases. The conclusion of this thesis presents a new set of guidelines based upon the imaginary friend model. Representing children in day-to-day care cases is never going to be easy, but a new model focused on each individual child’s perspectives and needs in the moment will help clarify the confusion and move the discussion beyond the decades-long stalemate.
dc.publisherUniversity of Otago
dc.rightsAll items in OUR Archive are provided for private study and research purposes and are protected by copyright with all rights reserved unless otherwise indicated.
dc.subjectCare of Children Act
dc.subjectLawyer for child
dc.subjectCounsel for child
dc.subjectImaginary Friend
dc.subjectDay-to-day care
dc.subjectParenting Time
dc.titleBecoming an Imaginary Friend: A New Paradigm for Lawyers Representing Children in Day-to-Day Care Cases
dc.language.rfc3066en of Laws of Otago
otago.openaccessAbstract Only
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