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Family law

If Oranga Tamariki takes you to court

How to respond to Oranga Tamariki’s court application


Family Court Rules 2002, R 291

If Oranga Tamariki have applied to the Family Court for Care or Protection Orders, you’ll have the chance to decide how to respond to them. You’ll be able to say if you don’t agree to it being made and explain why. You’ll usually have seven days to do this.

If you don’t respond to the application, the Family Court Judge can make a decision without hearing from you.

Note: It can be difficult to respond to Oranga Tamariki’s court application within the seven-day time limit, so talk to a lawyer straightaway. You can get a lawyer on Legal Aid if you can’t afford a lawyer yourself. You can also visit your local Community Law Centre for initial advice (see: “Where to go for more support” at the bottom of this page).

You can get more detailed information about responding to an application, including the different forms you should fill in, at the Ministry of Justice website, here (or go to: www.justice.govt.nz and search: “after a care or protection order has been made”).

Your options if Oranga Tamariki have applied for Care or Protection Orders

If Oranga Tamariki apply to a judge for Care or Protection Orders about your child, you have different options:

  • Oppose – You could decide to challenge Oranga Tamariki’s view that your child needs care or protection.
  • Oppose only the specific orders – You could decide to agree that your child does need care or protection but to disagree about the specific court orders that Oranga Tamariki wants. For example, instead of a Custody Order that would take your child away from you for a time, you might argue instead that your child should stay with you and that the judge should instead make a support order and/or a services order for Oranga Tamariki to provide help and support.
    • If there’s a dispute about, for example, a particular type of order, the judge might order you and Oranga Tamariki to go to mediation to try to resolve it. This is where a neutral person helps you and Oranga Tamariki try to reach agreement on what should happen, rather than the Family Court judge deciding this.
  • Oppose only Oranga Tamariki’s specific plan – You might decide to accept the orders Oranga Tamariki want, but to oppose the specific plan that Oranga Tamariki have put forward. You might disagree with what the plan says you have to do (like going to counselling) or disagree about how long it will be before the plan is reviewed (for example, you might argue for six months rather than 12).

Deciding whether or not to oppose the Care or Protection Orders

When Oranga Tamariki apply for Care or Protection Orders, they’ll usually ask you if you agree to the judge making the orders. This can be a hard decision to make, so get advice from a lawyer on this.

When you oppose the application for Care or Protection Orders, this is called “defending” the application. The main document you have to file in the Family Court is therefore called a “Notice of defence”. Get help from a lawyer if you want to defend the application. If you can’t afford a lawyer yourself, you’ll be able to get one on Legal Aid – phone 0800 2 Legal Aid (0800 253 425).

Will there be a Family Group Conference if Oranga Tamariki go to the Family Court?

Oranga Tamariki Act 1989, ss 18, 72

Usually, a Family Group Conference is held before Oranga Tamariki apply for Care or Protection Orders, not after. If it’s an urgent case though, Oranga Tamariki may have applied to the court without first having a conference – in that case, the judge will order a conference to happen before they decide about Oranga Tamariki’s application.

Oranga Tamariki have to make a report and a plan for the child

Oranga Tamariki Act 1989, s 128

If you don’t oppose the Care or Protection Orders, the next step is usually for Oranga Tamariki to make a report and a plan for the judge. They will usually have four weeks to do this.

The plan will usually cover:

  • the services and help that Oranga Tamariki will give
  • what you and other caregivers and guardians will have to do
  • personal objectives for the child
  • anything that’s relevant to the wellbeing and interests of the child and that helps keep them safe and well looked after.

Often a plan from Oranga Tamariki will be for the child to be placed with them for six months. Then Oranga Tamariki will have a review meeting where they’ll look at whether the court orders need to continue. There might, for example, be two or three cycles of having a six-month plan and review. But every case is different, and in the most extreme cases these cycles can go on for years.

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Dealing with Oranga Tamariki / Ministry for Children

Where to go for more support

Community Law

Your local Community Law Centre can provide you with free initial legal advice.

Find your local Community Law Centre online: www.communitylaw.org.nz/our-law-centres

Oranga Tamariki/Ministry for Children

Oranga Tamariki’s website has a range of information about the care and protection issues discussed in this chapter.

Website: www.orangatamariki.govt.nz
Email: contact@ot.govt.nz
Phone: 0508 326 459


Barnardos delivers a range of child, family and education services throughout New Zealand.  Check their website to see what services are available in your area.

Website: www.barnardos.org.nz
Email: info@barnardos.org.nz
Phone: 0800 BARNARDOS (0800 227 627)

Family Court

The Family Court website has information about how a government agency can apply for a Care or Protection Order of a child.

Website: www.justice.govt.nz and select “Family” then “Keeping children safe” and “When Oranga Tamariki gets involved”.

VOYCE – Whakarongo Mai

“VOYCE” stands for “Voice of the Young and Care Experienced” and is a non-government advocacy service for children and young people in state care.

Website: www.voyce.org.nz
Phone: 0800 4VOYCE (0800 486 923)

Youthline Aotearoa

Youthline provides free counselling, information and referral services.

Website: www.youthline.co.nz
Email: talk@youthline.co.nz
Phone: 0800 BARNARDOS (0800 227 627)
Free text: 234

Women’s Refuge

Women’s Refuge provides 24-hour support, advocacy and accommodation for women and their children experiencing family violence throughout New Zealand.

Website: www.womensrefuge.org.nz
Crisis line (24/7): 0800 REFUGE (0800 733 843)
Email: info@refuge.org.nz
Instagram: www.instagram.com/womensrefugenz
Facebook: www.facebook.com/womensrefugenz

Children’s Commissioner

The Office of the Children’s Commissioner looks to ensure that children’s rights are respected and upheld. It advocates for the best interests of all children and young people in New Zealand.

Website: www.occ.org.nz
Email: children@occ.org.nz
Phone: 0800 224 453

Office of the Ombudsman

The Ombudsman handles complaints about Government agencies, such as Oranga Tamariki or the Police.

Website: www.ombudsman.parliament.nz
Email: office@ombudsmen.parliament.nz
Phone: 0800 802 602
To make a complaint online: go to the website above and select “get help (for the public)”

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