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If Oranga Tamariki takes you to court

The first step: Oranga Tamariki applies for care or Protection Orders

When Oranga Tamariki applies for care or Protection Orders

If Oranga Tamariki want to bring your child under the child protection laws and use powers like monitoring what’s happening with your child and your whānau, they’ll need to go in front of a Family Court Judge and apply for official court orders. This could be, for example, an order putting your child in the care of Oranga Tamariki (a “custody order”), or possibly an order that you or someone else in your family or whānau isn’t allowed to have contact with the child (a “restraining order”).

Oranga Tamariki will need to show that your child needs care or protection on one of the grounds in the Oranga Tamariki Act.

Usually a Family Group Conference will have been held before Oranga Tamariki applies to the Family Court. If the Family Group Conference was able to agree on a plan about what to do and action under that plan progresses like it’s supposed to, then the case usually won’t go to the Family Court at all. But if a second meeting of the Family Group Conference after a set time (a “review meeting”) finds that there wasn’t enough progress in doing what the plan says (like the things the parents were supposed to do), then Oranga Tamariki may decide to go to the Family Court. It’s a more serious action that Oranga Tamariki can take if they think the less serious course of action, the Family Group Conference, has failed to deal with the problems.

In urgent cases Oranga Tamariki may decide to apply to the Family Court straight away rather than going through the Family Group Conference process. But then a Family Group Conference has to be held anyway, after the application is made but before the judge decides the case.

How you’ll find out if Oranga Tamariki has applied to the Family Court

As the child’s parent, you’ll be given a copy of Oranga Tamariki’s application for care or Protection Orders. You’ll also be told when the case is going to be dealt with in the Family Court.

If Oranga Tamariki have also got a temporary custody order from the Family Court giving them or someone else custody of your child (also called “day-to-day care”), you’ll also be given a copy of this order.

If your child is 12 or older, the Family Court will also give them a copy of the application.

Oranga Tamariki Act 1989, s 153

The Family Court will choose a lawyer to represent the child, and you’ll be told who that lawyer is.

Changes to the steps used in care and protection cases in the Family Court

    Before July 2019, if Oranga Tamariki wanted to get the Family Court to make specific care or Protection Orders for a child (like a custody order), they would first have to apply for a “declaration” from the judge that the child needs care or protection. That first step has now been removed – now Oranga Tamariki will just apply directly to the judge for one or more of the various care or Protection Orders that can be made. In other words, this changes the old two-step process into one step.

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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 free initial legal advice and information.

Oranga Tamariki / Ministry for Children


Oranga Tamariki / Ministry for Children replaced Child, Youth and Family in April 2017. Its website has a range of information about the care and protection issues discussed in this chapter.

Phone: 0508 FAMILY (0508 326 459)
Email: enquiry@ot.govt.nz

Family Court


The Family Court website has a wide variety of pamphlets and other information on issues relating to children. Access pamphlets online or order hard copies:

Phone: 0800 587 847
Email: publications@justice.govt.nz



Barnardos delivers a range of child and family services and early childhood care and education services throughout New Zealand. Barnardos also produces a range of fact sheets about children, parenting, child abuse and neglect, and school and family matters. For more information contact:

Phone: 0800 BARNARDOS (0800 227 627)
Email: information.sheets@barnardos.org.nz

Children’s Commissioner


Contact the Office of the Children’s Commissioner:

Phone: 0800 224 453
Email: advice@occ.org.nz

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.

VOYCE – Whakarongo Mai


This is a non-government advocacy service for children and young people in state care. Set up in April 2017, “VOYCE” stands for “Voice of the Young and Care Experienced”.

Youthline Aotearoa


Phone: 0800 37 66 33
Free text: 234
Email: talk@youthline.co.nz

Youthline provides free counselling, information and referral services.

Women’s Refuge


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

Crisis Line

Phone: 0800 REFUGE (0800 733 843)

Women’s Refuge provides a free phone line for people anywhere in New Zealand. Get information, advice and support about family violence as well as help in a crisis.


A range of resources and fact sheets are available online.

Phone: (04) 802 5078
Email: info@refuge.org.nz

Office of the Ombudsman


Free phone: 0800 802 602

Email: office@Ombudsman.parliament.nz

Also available as a book

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