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Family law

If Oranga Tamariki takes you to court

The judge’s decision: When the judge can make Care or Protection Orders

If I oppose the Care or Protection Orders, how does the judge decide what to do?

Oranga Tamariki Act 1989, ss 14, 14AA

If you oppose Oranga Tamariki’s application for Care or Protection Orders, the case will go to a full hearing in the Family Court. The judge will then have to decide whether the case comes within one of the set grounds in the Oranga Tamariki Act for making one of these orders.

These grounds fall into three main areas:

  • Serious harm, neglect, or other problems, if:
    • the child is being abused (whether physically, emotionally or sexually), deprived, ill-treated or neglected (or this is likely to happen)
    • the child’s development or wellbeing is being seriously affected (or is likely to be)
    • the child has suffered serious harm through being exposed to family violence
    • the parents or guardians are unable to care for the child, or they are unwilling to care for them or have abandoned them.
  • Behaviour problems, if:
    • the child’s behaving in a way that’s likely to harm other people or themselves (whether physical, mental or emotional harm) and the parents or guardians can’t, or won’t, change the child’s behaviour
    • the child is aged 10, 11, 12 or 13 and they’ve been committing crimes, so that there are serious concerns about the child’s wellbeing. (For children under 10 this on its own isn’t grounds for Care or Protection Orders; for teenagers aged 14 to 17 inclusive, they’re covered by the youth justice system if they’re caught breaking the criminal law.)
  • Conflicts or problems with or between parents, if:
    • the child has serious differences with their parents or guardians, and this is causing (or is likely to cause) serious harm to the child
    • there are serious differences between the parents or guardians, and these are causing (or are likely to cause) serious harm to the child.

Note: Full hearings in the Family Court to decide whether a child needs care or protection aren’t very common. Usually, the parents will agree with Oranga Tamariki not to challenge their view that the child needs care or protection.

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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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