The battle over the care of 6-year-old Jayden Headley has produced a welter of civil, criminal, and Family Court proceedings and there are many more to come.
The family squabble - capturing an ever-widening circle of players - Child, Youth and Family counsellors, Barnados workers, psychologists, doctors, DNA scientists, police, lawyers, judges, and teachers - has taken up an incalculable amount of publicly and privately funded resources. But because the interests of a child were at stake, public agencies have had no alternative but to be involved.
Jayden Headley was born to Kay Skelton and Chris Jones on May 12, 2000. His maternal grandmother, Wendy Headley, told the Herald this week that during the pregnancy the relationship between her daughter and Jones was already over - perhaps the reason why the baby did not have a father listed on his birth certificate. Jones and Skelton began their relationship in November 1998. Just three months previously, Skelton had separated from husband Brett Skelton, whom she had married in 1994. However, the marriage was never dissolved and they maintained close contact, eventually moving in together at Hamilton in January 2005.
The family issue had reached the state machinery in January 2001 when documents show court proceedings were instigated by Kay Skelton when Jayden was seven months old. She applied for custody and an order preventing Jayden's removal from New Zealand (which the court said had no credible basis). Jones was allowed limited supervised access to baby Jayden for two short periods a fortnight.
By April 2001 Skelton had filed an application for a protection order.
By early June she was opposed to any access, describing Jones as not being "any sort of person who should be associating with Jayden".
Later in the year Skelton made what Jones maintains were unfounded claims that he was violent. The court directed Jones to undertake anger management and parenting courses, which he completed promptly.
Skelton moved to Tauranga in 2001 and an agreed weekly access regime was never properly implemented. At that stage Barnados in Tauranga became involved and offered supervision fortnightly, and by agreement the access arrangement was changed. During this time Jayden was often said to be sick or upset and Skelton frequently objected to the venue at which access time was organised. By this time Skelton had gone through five solicitors, and several further access agreements reached through court input and mediation were flouted.
Doubt about who was Jayden's father surfaced at a custody hearing in April 2002.
Kay Skelton told the court that during the course of 1999 she was having sexual intercourse with both Brett Skelton and Chris Jones.
Then in December 2002, Kay Skelton left for Australia without the knowledge of Jones (even though she had previously requested an order preventing Jayden from leaving New Zealand). Australian authorities now became involved. But Skelton, financially supported by her mother, was not tracked down for eight months. Once she was located, the Australian authorities threatened to implement Hague Convention proceedings and Skelton returned to New Zealand voluntarily in August 2003.
From August 2003 to mid-January 2005, access as ordered by the courts proceeded on all but nine occasions, although court documents point to "the beginnings of overt interference by Mr (Dick) Headley [Skelton's father] at access changeover".
Jayden had a successful court-sanctioned holiday with his father in the summer of 2004/2005 but after that Jones' attempts at access were again stymied.
In February 2005, on being brought to Barnados for a changeover, Jayden refused to get out of the car, clung to his mother, and refused to leave the access centre.
A teacher gave evidence in court about Jayden's extreme reaction to his father's intention to pick him up from school. The boy had become distressed, saying Poppa had said he shouldn't have to see his father.
Between 2001 and 2005 the courts commissioned six psychologists' reports on Jayden, and in July 2005 Auckland psychologist Sara Chatwin became involved when Skelton voluntarily took the child to see her on four occasions that month.
Ms Chatwin gave evidence the following month, which the judge described as "singularly unhelpful".
On September 27 that year Judge Anne McAloon was called on to rule on the matter. She said the question of whether Chris Jones was the biological father could have "very easily been resolved, yet in the three years which have passed since she [Kay Skelton] first raised the doubt, neither she nor Brett Skelton has taken the first step towards resolution ... She maintained her position at the hearing but appeared ambivalent about seeking DNA tests to settle the matter".
Skelton finally relented to court pressure that the boy be tested for a paternal DNA match. On June 1, 2006 she testified her husband, not Chris Jones, was the father of Jayden, and produced privately organised DNA results. The court was doubtful, and called for an independent sample.
In a decision of June 22, 2006, Judge David Brown noted that: "Kay Skelton's position is not honest.
"If the analysis carried out on her instructions by DNA Solutions Pty Ltd was an honest one and accurately establishes Jayden's paternity she has nothing to fear from the issue being re-tested.
"The minor inconvenience of Jayden being subjected to another mouth swab is of no consequence beside the need for an honest answer."
Skelton's private analysis proved false, and Jones was proved to be the father.
In a decision of June 22, 2006, Judge Brown referred to an allegation of physical abuse against Jayden.
Kay Skelton alleged that Jayden had complained of an episode of abuse by Jones when the pair stayed together for a weekend.
The Department of Child, Youth, and Family became involved but declined to offer a finding to the court.
Jones was cross-examined, with the judge later saying: "I thought Mr Jones' answers had weight and texture.
"In the context of these proceedings I was prepared to accept his denial that there had been physical abuse as Ms Skelton had alleged."
At that hearing Judge Brown made what he described as "as radical an order as a Family Court judge can make," by taking Jayden from the care of a parent who had looked after him since birth, and placing him in the care of the other parent.
Less than two months later Jayden was abducted.
This brought the police into the circle, but it was five months before Jayden reappeared.
The circus-like nature of events was then symbolised by the entry of a car and caravan down Hamilton's main streets. The driver, Chris Jones' brother Mark, tooted the horn to attract attention.
Children leaned out of car windows holding posters plastered with pictures of Jayden.
The caravan displayed the question: "Where is Jayden?", but the "welcome home" message was clear.
Minutes later Jayden was handed over to Jones, under the order of the Family Court.
Jayden is still a guardian of the court, and under only the interim custody of his father.
Kay Skelton is barred from seeing her son, even under the strictest of supervision. Her father faces kidnapping charges.
This family drama has a long way to go.