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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
    • 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
    • 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
    • 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 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

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