If Oranga Tamariki takes you to court
How to respond to Oranga Tamariki’s court application
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 (see “Where to go for more support” at the end of this chapter) and we can give you some initial advice.
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 everything – 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?
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
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.