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Family law

Guardianship of children

When guardianship ends

When and how does guardianship end?

Care of Children Act 2004, s 28

Guardianship ends when the child:

  • turns 18, or
  • gets married, enters into a civil union, or lives with someone as a de facto partner (if the child is 16 or 17, they need written permission from their guardian).

Guardianship also ends if a guardian:

  • is removed by the court, or
  • was appointed for a specific time period and the period ends, or
  • was appointed for a specific purpose and the purpose is achieved.

Note: Guardianship has been described as a “dwindling right”. This means that even though guardianship may not have legally come to an end, as a child gets older and gains in maturity and understanding, their views become more important and the rights of a guardian to make decisions for the child decrease.

Removal of guardians by the courts

When can someone be removed as a guardian?

Care of Children Act 2004, s 29

The Family Court can remove a guardian if:

  • for some very serious reason the person is unfit to be a guardian, or
  • the person is unwilling to be a guardian, and
  • the removal will be in best interests of the child.

In practice, this means that there will have to be a very serious reason before a parent is removed as a guardian.

Removing a testamentary, court-appointed, or additional guardian

When it comes to removing a testamentary guardian, court-appointed guardian, or new spouse or partner as an additional guardian, the only question is whether the removal will be in the best interests of the child.

Next Section | Paternity

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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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