Parenting orders

A parenting order is an order made by the Family Court that says who is responsible for day-to-day care of a child (under 16 years of age), and when and how someone else important in the child’s life can have contact with them. A parenting order can also record the shared care of a child.

Apply for a Parenting Order if there’s a dispute about who looks after the children and when (day-to-day care) or when parents and others see the children (contact). Day-to-day care used to be called custody and contact used to be called access.

Apply for an Order to Settle a Dispute between Guardians if you want the Family Court to make decisions about guardianship issues, like where the children live, where they go to school, medical treatment (other than routine medical matters), what their culture, language and religion will be and any changes to their name.

If a decision needs to be made urgently (without notice), you can make a without notice application. The judge will look at the application straight away, and if they decide there are good reasons to do so, they can make an Interim Order before the other person gets to have their say. If they don’t think there are good reasons to make an order straight away, they will direct that the application is placed on notice, which means that the other person will get a copy of the application and will be able to respond before an order can be made.


What is guardianship?

Being a guardian of a child means having all duties, powers, rights and responsibilities that a parent has in bringing up the child.

What are a guardian’s responsibilities?

A guardian’s responsibilities include:

  • providing day-to-day care for the child
  • contributing to the child’s intellectual, emotional, physical, social, cultural and other personal development
  • helping to make, or helping the child to make, the important decisions in a child’s life. These include decisions about:
  • the child’s name (and any changes to it)
  • where and with whom the child lives
  • medical treatment for the child
  • where and how the child will be educated
  • the child’s culture, language, and religion.

Protection and other domestic violence orders

If you are in immediate danger, call 111 and ask for the Police. They will respond immediately.
If the danger is not immediate, there are other organisations that can help you arrange a Protection Order.

If you decide you want to make the violence stop, there are a lot of people and tough laws that will help you. These people include the Family Court, Police, the Ministry for Vulnerable Children, Oranga Tamariki (formerly Child, Youth and Family), Women’s Refuge, Stopping Violence Services, your lawyer, Victim Support, and many other government and community organisations.

The Court takes applications for Protection Orders very seriously. The vast majority are granted immediately.

A list of community organisations that can help you can be found at the front of the phone book (White pages) under Emergency Services or Personal Help Services. Organisations such as the Women’s Refuge can help women in many ways. They may:

  • arrange to pick you up if you don’t have money or a car
  • arrange emergency accommodation for you and your children if you need to get out of your home
  • discuss the choices you have and the different kind of legal, housing and financial assistance you can get
  • provide you with information on how the system works – the Police, the Family Court, Legal Aid, etc
  • quickly arrange an appointment with a lawyer
  • support you in applying for a Protection Order.

Care and Protection Cases

If an Oranga Tamariki – Ministry for Children social worker or the police think a child is being harmed or neglected, or is likely to be harmed or neglected, they can ask the Family Court to legally recognise that the child is in need of care and protection. This is called an application for a care & protection declaration.

If the social worker or the police think the child is in immediate danger, the Family Court can make an interim Custody Order without talking to the child’s parent, guardian or caregiver first. This means the child will be put in the care of Oranga Tamariki – Ministry for Children until the judge can make a decision about whether to make the declaration.

What happens after the application is given to the Family Court

If you’re the child’s parent, guardian or caregiver:

  • you’ll be given a copy of the application for the care & protection declaration (and a copy of the interim Custody Order if the child has been put in the care of Oranga Tamariki – Ministry for Children)
  • you’ll be told when the matter is going to be heard in the Family Court.

Find out more about how you can respond to the application

The Family Court will choose a lawyer for the child and let you know who that lawyer is. If the child is 12 years or older, their lawyer will give them a copy of the care & protection application.