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Family law

Guardianship of children

Disputes between guardians

What happens if guardians disagree?

Care of Children Act 2004, ss 30–35

If you and your child’s other guardian can’t agree on decisions about the child – for example, about what school they should go to – either of you can apply to the Family Court for it to decide the issue, so long as you’ve already tried to come to an agreement through Family Dispute Resolution (see below).

The well-being and best interests of your child will be the first and most important factor when the Family Court makes its decision.

Family Dispute Resolution

Care of Children Act 2004, s 46E

Guardians usually can’t take a dispute to the Family Court unless they’ve already tried to come to an agreement through the Family Dispute Resolution process (FDR). For more details about FDR, see “‘Family Dispute Resolution’: Mediation through the Family Court” in this chapter

The rules around when you have to go to Family Dispute Resolution, and how to prove that you have tried to resolve the dispute through FDR to the Family Court are the same as for applications for Parenting Orders. See “What you need to do before you can apply for a Parenting Order” in this chapter

Resolving guardianship disputes by agreement

Care of Children Act 2004, s 40

If guardians agree on an issue about the child’s care and upbringing, such as their school, hobbies or religion, they have the option of asking the Family Court to turn the agreement into a court order. The agreement can then be enforced like any other court order.

As well as guardianship issues, agreements brought to the Family Court in this way sometimes include parenting arrangements for day-to-day care and contact.

Next Section | When guardianship ends

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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)
Email: enquiry@ot.govt.nz

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: www.smartstart.services.govt.nz/register-my-baby

“What happens to your children when you part?” (pamphlet)

Phone: (04) 472 7837
Email: pamphlets@lawsociety.org.nz

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

www.resolution.institute – Resolution Institute is a community of mediators, arbitrators, adjudicators, restorative justice practitioners and other DR professionals.

www.aminz.org.nz – 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: publications@wclc.org.nz or visit www.communitylaw.org.nz to buy a copy or access free online.

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