Care arrangements when parents have separated

Parenting agreements

What might a parenting agreement cover?

Care of Children Act 2004, s 40

Parents can make their own “parenting agreement” to deal with who will provide day-to-day care for the children and, if only one parent has day-to-day care, when and how the other parent will have contact with the child (including over holidays).

The Ministry of Justice have a parenting plan workbook that will help you work through and record your parenting plan. It will help you write a schedule for the day-to-day care of the child. It will prompt you to consider things like what will happen on special occasions and who will look after the child’s important documents.

To download a workbook, go to the Ministry of Justice website, here (or go to: and search “Agree on a parenting plan”).

Is a parenting agreement legally binding?

No. A parenting agreement can’t be enforced in the courts like other agreements or contracts. This means if one of you are not following the agreement, you can’t ask the Family Court to make them follow the agreement.

However, parents and guardians can apply to the Family Court to formalise a parenting agreement by turning the agreement into a court order called a Consent Order. The agreement can then be enforced like any other court order.

As well as parenting issues, agreements brought to the Family Court in this way sometimes also include guardianship issues, such as which school the child will go to.

For more information on how to apply for a Consent Order, go to the Ministry of Justice website, here (or go to: and search “Apply for a Consent Order”).

What if a parenting agreement isn’t working?

If parents can’t agree about what the agreement means or how it should work, either parent can apply to the Family Court for a Parenting Order.

Next Section | Parenting orders

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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:

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:
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.


New Zealand Law Society

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


Inland Revenue

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

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.


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:
Arbitrators’ and Mediators’ Institute of New Zealand Inc (AMINZ):
Family Works:

Oranga Tamariki/Ministry for Children

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

Phone: 0508 326 459

Department of Internal Affairs

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


Registering your child’s birth

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


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