If there are children in a relationship that has ended, typically parents want to sort out a parenting agreement as a matter of priority.  Coming to an agreement may be very challenging in some circumstances, particularly where the parents are not on good terms, or the parents do not agree on what is best for the children.

Although it is usually desirable for parents to come to an agreement amongst themselves, often that is simply not possible.  If parties are struggling to agree on parenting matters, it might be time to get some outside assistance in order to move things forward. Fortunately, there are a range of tools to help parties work towards an agreement.    

In the first instance, getting prompt legal advice is very important to help parties through their options. An experienced family lawyer can explain parental rights, offer solutions to problems, and help parties navigate their way through the dispute.  Getting a lawyer involved can also be helpful in terms of removing some of the emotion from the dispute, and bringing the focus back to the child.

It is recommended that parents attend the Parenting Through Separation course (PTS), which is provided by various organisations via the Ministry of Justice.  The course will help the parents to think about how the separation is affecting their children, and also discuss ways to make an agreement. 

If the parties are still not able to reach an agreement, they could attend Family Disputes Resolution (FDR).  A trained mediator, with a background in family matters, will meet with the parties and help them to identify the cause of conflict, understand each other’s perspectives, and talk about their goals.  There is a cost for FDR, but if the parties qualify for legal aid, it will be free.

The Family Court is available for parties who are not able to reach an agreement, even with the assistance of a lawyer or mediator.  In that case a Judge will make an order about the parenting matter in dispute, and this will be enforceable by both parties.

If there is an urgent matter which needs to be resolved quickly, the Family Court can help immediately.  Situations which are urgent include where there is domestic violence, a risk of harm, or a risk that a child will be removed from New Zealand.

Leading law firms committed to helping clients cost-effectively will have a range of fixed-price Initial Consultations to suit most people’s needs in quickly learning what their options are.