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Using lawyers in the Family Court

Can a lawyer represent me in the Family Court?

Family Court Rules 2002, rule 80; Care of Children Act 2004, s 7, Family Court (Supporting Families in Court) Legislation Act 2020, s 4

New rules came into effect on 1 July 2020 that let lawyers represent you at the start of a care of children dispute in the Family Court.

In the past, for cases under the Care of Children Act, you were only allowed to have a lawyer represent you and appear with you in court for certain types of cases or for particular stages of your case.

Now, if you apply under the Care of Children Act for the Family Court to resolve a dispute about care arrangements (a Parenting Order) or guardianship issue (like what school your child will go to), you can have a lawyer represent you in court. A lawyer will be able to apply on your behalf and appear in court with you during the early stages of the court process.

You are also able to access Legal Aid if you qualify for it. For more information about accessing Legal Aid, see the chapter “Legal Aid and other legal help

You don’t need to have a lawyer to take a case to the Family Court and you can represent yourself if you want to.

Can I get financial help for going to the Family Court?

Legal Services Act 2011, s 7

In Care of Children Act cases, Legal Aid is now available for you if you qualify for it. See the chapter “Legal Aid and other legal help”

You can also get background legal help from the free Family Legal Advice Service, if your income is below a certain amount (to help you with your application, for example). The income limits for the free Family Legal Advice Service is the same as for the free Family Dispute Resolution service. See, “Do I have to pay for Family Dispute Resolution?” earlier in this chapter

Family Legal Advice Service is different from Legal Aid, and even if you don’t qualify for Legal Aid you might qualify for the free Family Legal Advice Service. Legal Aid isn’t available for dissolution of marriage (divorce).

To find an approved Family Legal Advice Service provider, contact the Family Court or go to www.justice.govt.nz and search “Find a service to help with disputes”.

Will a lawyer be appointed for my child?

Care of Children Act 2004, s 7; Family Court Act 1980, s 9B

In Family Court cases, the judge can arrange a lawyer to act for a child involved in the case, this lawyer is called a “lawyer for the child”.

But in Care of Children Act cases the Family Court can only appoint a lawyer for the child if the judge is concerned about the child’s safety or well-being and thinks that a lawyer for the child is necessary.

The lawyer for the child is supposed to act for the child in a way that will be best for the child’s wellbeing and best interests. The lawyer will meet with the child to find out their views, and will present those views to the court. The lawyer will also tell the child about appealing the Family Court’s decision to a higher court, and must give this advice in a way that’s appropriate to the child’s level of understanding. For more information on lawyer for the child, see www.justice.govt.nz/family/about/lawyer-for-child

Who pays the lawyer fees for the child?

Care of Children Act 2004, s 135A; Family Courts (Prescribed Proportion of Professionals’ Costs) Regulations 2014, reg 4

If a lawyer is appointed for your child, you and the other parent will usually have to pay two thirds of the lawyer’s fees, in equal shares. You may not have to pay your share if this would cause serious hardship to you or your children or if you’re getting legal aid.

For more information on the cost of a lawyer for the child, go to www.justice.govt.nz and search “cost contribution order”.


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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.

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.

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