Care arrangements when parents have separated

Parenting agreements

What might a parenting agreement cover?

Care of Children Act 2004, s 40

Parents can make their own “parenting agreement” to deal with who will provide day-to-day care for the children and, if only one parent has day-to-day care, when and how the other parent will have contact with the child (including over holidays).

The Ministry of Justice have a parenting plan workbook that will help you work through and record your parenting plan. It will help you write a schedule for the day-to-day care of the child. It will prompt you to consider things like what will happen on special occasions and who will look after the child’s important documents.

To download a workbook, visit and search “Agree on a parenting plan”.

Is a parenting agreement legally binding?

No. A parenting agreement can’t be enforced in the courts like other agreements or contracts. This means if one of you are not following the agreement, you can’t ask the Family Court to make them follow the agreement.

However, parents and guardians can apply to the Family Court to formalise a parenting agreement by turning the agreement into a court order called a Consent Order. The agreement can then be enforced like any other court order.

As well as parenting issues, agreements brought to the Family Court in this way sometimes also include guardianship issues, such as which school the child will go to. For more information on how to apply for a Consent Order, go to and search “Apply for a Consent Order”.

What if a parenting agreement isn’t working?

If parents can’t agree about what the agreement means or how it should work, either parent can apply to the Family Court for a Parenting Order.

Next Section | Parenting orders

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Parents, guardians and caregivers

Where to go for more support

Community Law

Your local Community Law Centre can provide initial free legal advice and information.

Oranga Tamariki / Ministry for Children

Phone: 0508 FAMILY (0508 326 459)

This web page has information about the adoption process.

Family Court

The Family Court website includes information on the topics in this chapter.

Family Court fee waiver forms

Department of Internal Affairs

This DIA webpage has information on how to obtain original birth certificates for adopted children.

Parents can now register their baby’s birth online at:

“What happens to your children when you part?” (pamphlet)
Phone: (04) 472 7837

This New Zealand Law Society pamphlet covers guardianship, care of and contact with children, how disputes are resolved, and other child-focused issues. Access the pamphlet online or order hardcopies from the New Zealand Law Society.

Inland Revenue

Phone: 0800 221 221

Inland Revenue’s Child Support webpage has a wide range of forms and guides for parents and caregivers.

Alternative dispute resolution – Resolution Institute is a community of mediators, arbitrators, adjudicators, restorative justice practitioners and other DR professionals. – AMINZ (Arbitrators and Mediators Institute of New Zealand).

There are many kinds of “alternative dispute resolution” that, depending on your personal situation, may be cheaper and more successful than going to the Family Court. These include counselling, mediation and negotiation. You can find out more at the above websites

Aotearoa New Zealand Association of Supervised Contact Services

The ANZASCS website has information about organisations that are approved as providers of supervised contact services.

“Pregnancy Rights: Your legal options before and after pregnancy” booklet

This booklet contains practical answers to questions about pregnancy and the law, and includes information on sexual health and consent, options after a positive pregnancy test, healthcare, education, housing and more.

Order hard copies from:
Community Law Wellington and Hutt Valley
Phone: (04) 499 2928

Email: or visit to buy a copy or access free online.

Also available as a book

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