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Family law

Guardianship of children

Disputes between guardians

Care of Children Act 2004, s 46E

What happens if guardians disagree?

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.

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

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”).

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

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 you with free initial legal advice.

Find your local Community Law Centre online: communitylaw.org.nz/our-law-centres

Access the free “Pregnancy Rights: Your legal options before and after pregnancy” booklet, here. 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.
Email for a hard copy: publications@wclc.org.nz
Phone: Community Law Wellington and Hutt Valley – 04 499 2928

Family Court

The Family Court website covers many topics discussed in this chapter, including how the family court works, care of children, adoption and paternity.

Website: www.justice.govt.nz/family

New Zealand Law Society

The Law Society has helpful information on what happens with children when parents separate.

Website: www.lawsociety.org.nz/for-the-public/common-legal-issues/what-happens-to-your-children-when-you-part

Inland Revenue

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

Website: www.ird.govt.nz/topics/child-support
Phone: 0800 221 221

Aotearoa New Zealand Association of Supervised Contact Services (ANZASCS)

The ANZASCS website has information about supervised contact and lists contact details for approved providers of supervised contact services.

Website: www.anzascs.org.nz

Alternative Dispute Resolution

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. The following list is not exhaustive:

Resolution Institute: www.resolution.institute
Website: www.aminz.org.nz
Arbitrators’ and Mediators’ Institute of New Zealand Inc (AMINZ): www.fdrc.co.nz
FairWay: www.fairwayresolution.com
Family Works: www.familyworkscentral.org.nz

Oranga Tamariki/Ministry for Children

Oranga Tamariki’s website has information about the adoption process.

Website: www.orangatamariki.govt.nz/adoption/adopting-in-nz
Phone: 0508 326 459

Department of Internal Affairs

The DIA website has information on how to obtain original birth certificates for adopted children.

Website: www.govt.nz/browse/family-and-whanau/adoption-and-fostering/finding-your-birth-parents

Registering your child’s birth

The Smartstart website allows you to register your baby’s birth online.

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

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