The Family Court

Overview of the Family Court

What types of cases does the Family Court deal with?

Family Court Act 1980, s 11

The Family Court deals with lots of family law issues, including:

What’s it like in the Family Court?

Family Court Act 1980, ss 10, 12A

The Family Court Act requires the Family Court to be less formal than other courts. The court room can sometimes be set up less formally than other courts so people can talk more freely.

The rules around evidence are also more flexible in the Family Court too. The judges are allowed to accept a wide variety of evidence, including evidence that wouldn’t be allowed in other courts.

About the judges and the court staff

Family Court Act 1980, s 5, District Court Act 2016, s 15

  • Judges – To be appointed as a Family Court Judge, you need at least seven years’ experience as a lawyer, and you must also have the right training, experience and personality for dealing with family disputes.
  • Registry staff – The Family Court registry staff make some of the decisions that keep a case moving towards a final decision by a judge, for example, scheduling when the next step in the case has to be completed. The registry staff are also responsible for managing individual cases: if you have a question about your own case you should contact the staff member whose name is on any letters you’ve received from the Family Court about your case.
  • Family Court Coordinator – The coordinator can give you information about the court and its services. They also communicate with other people involved in Family Court processes such as specialist report writers (psychologists for example), social workers and lawyers appointed for children. Most Family Courts have a coordinator. If it’s a smaller Family Court that doesn’t have one, the court manager will be able to help you.
  • Kaiārahi – This is a new role for the Family Court, announced in April 2021. Kaiārahi are Family Court navigators that work in the community to give you information about the Family Court process and the different options you have when you take an issue to the Family Court. To get in touch with a kaiārahi, you can contact your nearest Family Court.

Did this answer your question?

Parents, guardians and caregivers

Where to go for more support

Community Law

www.communitylaw.org.nz

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

Oranga Tamariki / Ministry for Children

www.orangatamariki.govt.nz/adoption/adopting-in-nz

Phone: 0508 FAMILY (0508 326 459)
Email: enquiry@ot.govt.nz

This web page has information about the adoption process.

Family Court

www.justice.govt.nz/family

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

Family Court fee waiver forms

www.justice.govt.nz/courts/going-to-court/court-fees/apply-for-help-to-pay-court-fees

Department of Internal Affairs

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

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)

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

www.ird.govt.nz/childsupport

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

www.anzascs.org.nz

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

www.communitylaw.org.nz

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.

Also available as a book

The Community Law Manual

The Manual contains over 1000 pages of easy-to-read legal info and comprehensive answers to common legal questions. From ACC to family law, health & disability, jobs, benefits & flats, Tāonga Māori, immigration and refugee law and much more, the Manual covers just about every area of community and personal life. It’s for people living in Aotearoa New Zealand (and their advocates) to help themselves.

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