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The Family Court

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

Lawyers can represent you from the start of a care of children dispute in the Family Court.

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.

Note: 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. Since 1 July 2020, you can have a lawyer apply on your behalf, and appear in court with you during the early stages of the court process.

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: “Family/civil Legal Aid”).

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

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 applications to get legally divorced (“dissolution of marriage”).

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 should 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.

You can get more information on the cost of a lawyer for the child at the Ministry of Justice website, here (or 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 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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